Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wal-Mart's union-busting tactics

Wal-Mart's union-busting tactics.

In a forensic indictment based on two years' research, the Washington-based pressure group Human Rights Watch lifts the lid on Wal-Mart's aggressive tactic of stamping on the slightest sign that workers are organising representation.

American store bosses get a "manager's toolbox" - a manual which openly describes itself as a guide on "how to remain free in the event union organisers choose your facility as their next target".

They are told to phone a special "union hotline" if they suspect staff. Teams of union busters are then sent from Wal-Mart's Arkansas headquarters who regale workers with vitriolic presentations on the perils of unionisation.

Carol Price, author of the report, said: "Wal-Mart's aggressive and sophisticated anti-union strategy is based out of its headquarters. This is not a store-by-store problem - the violations are a direct result of the company's philosophy."

With $351bn (£176bn) in annual revenue and 1.8m staff worldwide, Wal-Mart was named America's largest company in the latest Fortune 500 rankings but its controversial business practices have caused increasing political unease. Unions organised a nationwide protest bus tour last year and prominent politicians have been getting on board.

The Norwegian government has ordered its state pension fund not to invest in Wal-Mart shares because of workers' rights violations. Hillary Clinton last week pointedly refused to endorse the company when asked during a presidential debate whether she considered it to be good or bad for America.

"It's a mixed blessing," Mrs Clinton said. Although Wal-Mart provides many jobs in rundown areas of her former home state of Arkansas, she said its behaviour raises "serious questions about the responsibility of corporations" in providing healthcare, safe working conditions and an environment of equality.

Combining documentary evidence with interviews of dozens of past and present Wal-Mart employees, Human Rights Watch has built a picture of a company which goes to great lengths to minimise the freedom of its staff.

Discounting Rights
Wal-Mart's Violation of US Workers’ Right to Freedom of Association

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