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By Lawrence Lessig
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Ear to the Ground

Labor’s New Strategy Against Wal-Mart

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Posted on Jan 7, 2012
racineur (CC-BY)

A coalition of groups made up of thousands of Wal-Mart employees that eschews union strategies may have a fighting chance of chipping away at the company’s brutal employment policies. Rather than negotiating, the new groups use a method similar to one that has served civil dissidents well: provoking legally prosecutable retaliations against employees. —ARK

The Nation:

Organizers credit the group’s brisk expansion to the ditching of formal union drives, in which organizers must win a prescheduled election at a store. “Walmart is very effective in dealing with a classic union strategy, where there’s an election coming that it can plan around,” says Wade Rathke, the founder of ACORN. He helped organize Walmarts from Florida to California in an experiment with nonunion organizing beginning in 2004. “But when there’s no election coming, they don’t know how to deal with these noncertified workers’ associations.”

This nonelection route bypasses official forms of collective bargaining, which mandate that workers and management sit down to agree on compensation and hours. Instead, these worker associations bargain outside pre-established frameworks of negotiation, using any means legal to pressure management into recognizing their interests—an arrangement that closely resembles pre–New Deal unionism. With little institutional arbitration, this model can be seen as a rawer, more organic form of workplace struggle.

National labor law broadly protects nonunion worker activities, including collective actions and even nonunion strikes. “In a nonunion situation, the employers do not have to agree to what these groups demand, but if the employer retaliates, there is a right to file an unfair practice charge and the NLRB would enforce it,” says Lance Compa, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, January 7, 2012 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment

Good for them, I hope things like this continue in many different industries.

Walmart is a big one, and Schneider International is another big one. Aside from warehouse logistical workers, I hope they are reaching out to the truckers at Schneider also (as they are part of the supply chain). Truckers throughout the industry are working double time at low wages and Schneider is one of the largest TL carriers in the nation, possibly the world. As far as contracts with Walmart are concerned possibly the largest quasi-LTL carrier since Walmart coordinates it’s shipping basically as an LTL carrier.

This article highlights a basic element of purchasing theory, that one should never have a customer so large or so imperative to the company’s interests that IT controls the company, rather than the company controlling itself. So either somebody messed up (regarding these contracts) or somebody’s attempting to downplay their own involvement in dissing workers.

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