A group calling itself People's Campaign
for Justice at Wal-Mart -- no doubt armed with battering rams,
maces and other 14th-century accoutrements of war -- is preparing
to lay siege to some of the huge retailer's 3,200 stores around
Sounds like a group of idealistic students
faulting Wal-Mart for importing clothes made in developing nations.
Or perhaps a band of animal rights activists concerned the company's
low-cost vitamins were tested on endangered baboons.
Alas, nothing that altruistic or romantic.
The People's Campaign for Justice at Wal-Mart -- aka PCJW-M --
is actually an auxiliary organization of the United Food and Commercial
Workers, the nation's third largest union with nearly 1.4 million
And the issue, folks, is extortion, not
The United Food and Commercial Workers
would like to double its size by adding Wal-Mart's 1.4 million
employees to its rank-and-file. It's tried repeatedly to organize
them in the past, but the overwhelming majority -- apparently
as happy as Wal-Mart's friendly greeters -- repeatedly has turned
their thumbs down.
So now the union -- with the strong backing
of the AFL-CIO and a plethora of left-leaning allies such as NOW,
Sprawl Busters and Bowling for Columbine's Michael Moore -- has
launched what amounts to a full-fledged smear campaign against
Their intention: to pressure Wal-Mart's
executives to force its workers to join the union against their
own expressed wishes.
That's a good deal for United Food and
Commercial Worker president Douglas H. Dority and the small platoon
of UFCW officials who make six-figure salaries, but it's a raw
deal for Wal-Mart workers and even worse for a lagging U.S. economy.
Wal-Mart's workers hardly fit the UFCW's
broad-brush depiction as wretches from a Charles Dickens' sweatshop
in mid-19th century London. Here are a few facts:
* Wal-Mart jobs offer competitive wages
and benefits -- and then some. Wal-Mart's compensation compares
favorably with unionized grocery workers with the same length
of service. Its starting rate, in fact, is usually the same --
and in some cases, slightly higher -- than unionized grocery workers
in the same market.
* More than 70 percent of Wal-Mart positions are full-time compared
to less than 50 percent of the unionized grocery workers. That's
also a far better ratio than chief rivals K-Mart, where roughly
half the workforce is full time, and Target, where the ratio dips
to 40 percent.
* Wal-Mart's health care benefits -- contrary
to union claims -- are among the best in American industry. More
than 75 percent of its associates are eligible to join its comprehensive
medical insurance plans with Wal-Mart picking up two-thirds of
the tab. Coverage includes life insurance, dental and both short-term
and long-term disability, dependents and out-of-plan expenses.
* Wal-Mart's retirement benefits also
are outstanding. Tax-deferred annual profit-sharing and 401 K
retirement contributions are made with or without employee participation.
* And finally, Wal-Mart positions are
definitely not dead-end jobs. Some two-thirds of the firm's management
associates began their careers as hourly employees. And Wal-Mart
provides training to constantly upgrade its employees' skills.
While none of us are ever totally happy
at our jobs, Wal-Mart's associates appear to be among the most
contented in the county. A Fortune Magazine survey, indeed, found
that Wal-Mart's own employees rated it among the top 100 companies
in terms of workplace satisfaction.
The sad truth is simply that the UFCW
has singled out Wal-Mart because it is one of the most successful
companies in the world -- creating more new jobs each year than
any other company. This year alone, Wal-Mart has built some 180
new stores, discount clubs and distribution centers across the
USA -- bringing new construction and retail jobs to virtually
every state in the union.
In a free-market democracy like America,
citizens get to cast daily ballots on their individual preferences.
Customers flock to Wal-Mart because they like its wide variety
of goods and services and its low prices. Potential employees,
obviously, seek jobs at Wal-Mart because they consider it a good
place to work.
The UFCW's true motives are best revealed
by the remarks of George Hartwell, president of its Local 1036
in California, who compared his union's latest campaign against
Wal-Mart to warfare.
"This is war," Hartwell said.
"Wal-Mart declared it by saying they'll build 40 super Wal-Marts
in Southern California."
Odd reasoning, eh? Wal-Mart certainly
wouldn't be investing hundreds of million of dollars in Southern
California if it wasn't convinced those stores would soon be bustling
with paying customers.
One has the feeling that the UFCW's shock
troops are about to land on an unoccupied beachhead -- fighting
a war that Wal-Mart's employees and customers -- and most other
Americans -- are simply going to ignore.
Maybe it's time for the union to stop
playing the bully and wasting its members' dues by launching ideological
blitzkriegs against the successful. Maybe it's time to allow truly
participatory democracy to have its way.
Amy Ridenour is President of
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington,
D.C. think tank. Comments may be sent to [email protected].