Wal-Mart and Unions
Started in 1962 by Sam Walton, Wal-Mart has become the largest retail chain in the world and currently holds the number one spot on the Fortune 500 list of largest US companies, if Wal-Mart were a country it would be the 25th largest economy in the world. They also hold the position of largest grocery chain in the US. Wal-Mart has been criticized by the government, women's rights groups, and labor unions, for its low wages, lack of benefits for its employees and forcing companies to manufacture goods at the lowest cost overseas at the expense of United States jobs. They have been accused of predatory pricing both in the United States and Europe, in many cases they broke the law and were fined. On the other side of the coin Wal-Mart has been praised for its ability to dominate the market and take a company that was neck and neck with K Mart a one point with a 1990 a stock price of $5 per share. Through a business strategy of superior distribution and cost cutting Wal-Mart has buried the competition and today their stock is in the $70 range and there is no one in the retail industry even close to them in sales. As with any retail company one of Wal-Mart’s largest expenses is labor. With over 1.4 million non supervisory workers in the US alone, keeping the cost of labor down is paramount in their strategy to be the low cost provider of goods. Based on a Forbes article and A PBS broadcast “When Store Wars come to Town” here are some interesting facts that show Wal-Mart’s feeling on unions. One-third of Wal-Mart employees are part-time employees, they are limited to less than 28 hours of work per week, which means they are not eligible for benefits. The Company is openly anti-union. This is Wal-Mart’s statement on unions: At Wal-Mart, we respect the individual rights of our associates and encourage them to express their ideas, comments and concerns. Because we believe in maintaining an environment of open communications, we do not believe there is a need for third-party representation. New employees are shown videotapes explaining that instead of unionizing, they benefit from the open door policy, allowing them to take their complaints to supervisors and are coached that they will be fairly treated. Researchers from Columbia Business School in Manhattan discovered that when Wal-Mart proposed to open 102 new stores within 25 miles of borders along right-to-work and pro-union states, it was more likely to open the new stores in states with right-to-work laws. By opening stores in close proximity to pro union states Wal-Mart get the benefit of tapping into the market without having to be forced to deal with the unions. This statement from an Wal-Mart article in the Indy new from Indianapolis: "In my 35 years in labor relations, I've never seen a company that will go to the lengths that Wal-Mart goes to, to avoid a union," said Martin Levitt, a management consultant who helped the company develop its anti-union tactics before writing a book called Confessions of a Union Buster. "They have zero tolerance." The unions see Wal-Mart’s policies as fertile ground for what would historically be employees who would benefit from a union. The unions want higher wages and better benefits. They want Wal-Mart associates to make a “livable wage” get company sponsored health insurance and for more full time employees to be hired. Wal-Mart employees seem to be caught between organized labor and the “big business” they work for. There are extremes as to how employees see their company and the organizers from the unions. Michael Bender president of Wal-Mart West recently made this statement. “First, let me introduce you to what I call "the 86 percent." You've heard of "the 99 percent" and "the 47 percent," but who are the "86 percent"? We recently did a confidential survey of more than 20,000 hourly workers to see what's really on our associates' minds. Some 86 percent responded they "agree" or "strongly agree" with the...
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