Friday, August 1, 2008

Wal-Mart mobilizes against Democrats: report

MSNBC staff and news service reports
updated 11:22 a.m. ET, Fri., Aug. 1, 2008

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing U.S. store managers to lobby against Democrats in November's presidential election, fearing they will make it easier for workers to unionize, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if store workers unionize, the paper said.

About a dozen employees who attended meetings in seven states said executives argued employees would have to pay hefty union dues and get nothing in return, and might have to go on strike without compensation. They also warned that unionization could force the company to cut jobs as labor costs rise, the Journal reported.

he Wal-Mart human-resources managers who have run the meetings didn't tell those attending how to vote in the November elections, but made it clear that voting for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama, would be tantamount to inviting unions in, the Journal said.

Wal-Mart opposes proposed legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize by signing a card rather than holding a vote.

A Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed the meetings to the Journal.

"If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval," David Tovar, the Wal-Mart spokesman, told the Journal.

Wal-Mart Watch, a union-backed group that often takes issue with labor practices at the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, argued that the meetings were just the latest example of bad behavior toward employees.

"Today's Wall Street Journal story demonstrates once again that Wal-Mart intimidates its workers," Executive Director David Nassar said in an e-mailed statement.

The Journal, citing figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive politics, said that 12 years ago, 98 percent of Wal-Mart's political donations went to Republicans. Now, with Democrats appearing poised to gain more clout in Washington, the Journal said the 48 percent of its $2.2 million in political contributions go to Democrats and 52 percent to Republicans.

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