News and Updates
April 10, 2005
Washington DC—Today’s Wall Street Journal revealed that former Wal-Mart Board member and Vice Chairman Thomas M. Coughlin, the #2 person at the company, alleges that he operated an illegal anti-union slush fund as part of a company program to suppress the democratic freedom of workers to make a choice for a union voice at work.
The UFCW calls on the company to publicize all documents connected with the U.S. attorney’s criminal probe of the Coughlin case.
Wal-Mart has already been found guilty of illegally spying, bribing with promotions, firing and intimidating workers. According to the Wall Street Journal, these revelations, if true, mean that Wal-Mart’s anti-worker, anti-union program “would represent a criminal offense under the federal Taft-Hartly Act,”—a federal felony to pay employees to persuade coworkers to abandon support for union representation.
The Journal also reported that Coughlin “is expected to use the ‘union project’ as part of his defense to the charges about mismanagement of funds.”
“We are deeply disturbed by these allegations of Wal-Mart’s anti-union activity,” stated UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Organizing Bill McDonough. These are serious criminal offenses and cast Wal-Mart’s systematic anti-worker activities on a much more sinister level. Wal-Mart should not try and cover up its activities but should do the right thing and make all of the documents public immediately.”
April 6, 2005
WakeUpWalmart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, challenged Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, Inc. to explain his statement yesterday regarding Wal-Mart’s health care coverage. During “”Wal-Mart Media Days,”” a two-day public relations effort to improve Wal-Mart’s image, Lee Scott answered questions from reporters.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Scott, in response to a reporter’s question about why Wal-Mart has the most number of employees on state Medicaid rolls, apparently said, “”There are government assistance programs out there that are so lucrative it’s hard to be competitive, and it’s expensive to be competitive,”” Scott said.
Georgia state legislator Nan Orrock was shocked. “”It should be an embarrassment to Wal-Mart that our tax-payer funded Medicaid programs compete with their dismal health care,”” stated Orrock. “”Our programs are intended for our state’s poor and underserved as a safety net, not as a better alternative to the largest corporation with more than $10 billion in profit.””
Instead of living up to its responsibility as America’s largest corporation, Wal-Mart continues to ask taxpayers to pay their health care costs. Several states are considering addressing this health care cost shift. In Maryland, for example, the State Senate passed a bill yesterday requiring corporations to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health care benefits for its employees or put the difference into Maryland’s Medicaid fund. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland has several employers with over 10,000 employees, but Wal-Mart is the only company that fails to meet the 8 percent threshold.
“”This is outrageous! With over $10 billion in profits, Wal-Mart has a moral responsibility to provide decent healthcare for their 1.4 million employees,”” stated Paul Blank, Wake-Up Wal-Mart’s campaign director. “”It is a sad day when the largest company in America admits that taxpayer sponsored healthcare programs, like Medicaid, provide better health care than our nation’s largest employer.””
It should also be noted, in the 11 out of 12 states where we have data, Wal-Mart is the company with the highest number of employees on Medicaid. In addition, more than 500,000 of Wal-Mart’s employees do not receive coverage under Wal-Mart’s health care plan.
“”It’s quite simple. Wal-mart needs to wake-up and do what is right for America! Wal-Mart has a responsibility to provide affordable, comprehensive health care to its employees not shift the cost onto the American taxpayers. America’s largest company should reflect America’s values,”” added Blank.
The Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign was launched on April 5, 2005 by the UFCW and more information is available at www.wakeupwalmart.com.
April 5, 2005
The UFCW announced today it is launching a new grassroots, community-based campaign to wake up Wal-Mart. The campaign’s website “”www.WakeupWalMart.com“” and the campaign’s blog “”http://blog.WakeUpWalmart.com“” will be at the center of this new grassroots movement that will lead and revolutionize the national fight to change Wal-Mart.
“”This is a new day and a new strategy in the fight against Wal-Mart,”” stated Paul Blank, the new campaign director for the Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign. “”Wal-Mart’s greed puts profits before people. Today, we are forming a grassroots movement to empower millions of Americans to ask Wal-Mart to put people first.””
“”The rise of Wal-Mart as the world’s largest retailer has come at a high cost to our society. Traditional organizing campaigns are too limited for a greedy, global company who is willing to cut its nose to spite its face rather than do the right thing and stand up for people,”” said Blank. “”For too long, Wal-Mart’s business practice has been to lower our wages, pressure suppliers to ship our jobs overseas, shift their health care costs onto American taxpayers and ask communities to give over $1 billion in subsidies for their expansion.””
“”All across America, consumers and taxpayers are waking up to the high cost of Wal-Mart’s poverty wages, reliance on taxpayer funded state health care programs and devastating impact on communities. Wal-Mart’s values are not America’s values,”” stated Blank. “”There is only one force powerful enough to change the largest corporation in the world, the largest retailer in the world and the largest employer in the world-the American people. We are Wal-Mart’s consumers and it is time for Wal-Mart to wake up and start doing what is right for its employees, our families, and our country.””
The Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign will give people the tools they need to join together in common purpose in order to change the largest corporation in the world. The campaign will utilize an array of organizing strategies, innovative media, a blog and other internet tools that have been used successfully in previous political and grassroots campaigns.
The website, WakeupWalMart.com, will offer concerned citizens, community leaders, activists, and workers an online vehicle where they can learn the truth about Wal-Mart’s record, as well as become an active member in this new grassroots movement. The “”Take Action”” center of the website will even feature a new tool for community leaders to Adopt-A-Store and begin forming community coalitions around every Wal-Mart location in the United States.
The website will also be used to form a new group of current and former Wal-Mart employees called the Wal-Mart Veterans Association. This will be a place for former and current employees to join together and share their Wal-Mart experience.
In addition, the website will feature a blog about Wal-Mart that will be updated throughout the day on news and stories related to Wal-Mart. It will become a vital resource for the millions of Americans who believe Wal-Mart needs to be changed.
March 29, 2005
Washington, DC — Twenty-one Members of Congress released a joint letter today calling on ABC News to drop Wal-Mart as a sponsor of Good Morning America’s “Only in America” series. The letter to David Westin, President of ABC News, states that in the “name of honesty and accuracy in the media, we ask that ABC News remove Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.” as a sponsor.
“Wal-Mart values are not American values. Crummy healthcare, an assault on small businesses, and poor wages is not what we value in America,” said Representative Anthony Weiner, who signed the letter.
The letter highlights Wal-Mart’s consistent attempts to use misleading advertising and slogans to confuse consumers and the American public about their real record. In fact, Wal-Mart’s attempt to wrap itself in the American flag is both hypocritical and misleading. For example, “”80 percent of the six thousand factories in Wal-Mart’s worldwide database of suppliers are in China.”” Amazingly, if Wal-Mart were a country it would be China’s seventh-largest export market, ahead of Germany and Great Britain. According to Ted Fishman, author of China, Inc., “”Wal-Mart’s growth as an economic force is inseparable from China’s rise as a manufacturing giant … no company has been a bigger catalyst in pushing American…manufactures to China.””
“It is a sad day when ABC News would allow itself to be used by Wal-Mart to sell a corporate image based on lies and myths,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. “One only has to look at the real Wal-Mart record to realize the severe damage this company has done to American families and communities.”
Joe Hansen, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, was delighted to see so many Members of Congress join in this growing movement to pressure ABC News to drop Wal-Mart as a sponsor.
“I join with other Americans who think it is time for Wal-Mart to stop relying on slogans and start doing what is right for our families and America,” said Hansen.
The joint Congressional letter is the latest step in a growing grassroots movement. Already, over 13,000 concerned citizens have signed the UFCW petition that asks David Westin, President of ABC News, to drop Wal-Mart as a sponsor. The petition can be found at www.ufcw.org.
March 22, 2005
Washington, DC – The United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union sent a letter to ABC News today demanding that Wal-Mart be immediately removed as a sponsor of their “Only in America” series, citing misleading and deceptive advertising. Wal-Mart appears to be the primary paid sponsor of Good Morning America’s “Only in America” series, which tells stories of common Americans and their love for the country and it’s citizens.
“Wal-Mart’s sponsorship of ‘Only in America’ is hypocritical, as well as a cynical abuse of ABC News,” stated UFCW President Joe Hansen in a letter to ABC News President David Westin. “I call on you, Mr. Westin, to drop Wal-Mart immediately as a sponsor of this segment, and to take down the company’s internet ads which further attempt to connect Wal-Mart with the ‘Only in America’ slogan.”
The advertising campaign seems to be part of an “unusual” public relations offensive by Wal-Mart to counter growing concerns about the corporate ethics of the retail giant. But, this is not the first time Wal-Mart has attempted to use patriotism as a marketing scheme. In the 1990’s, Wal-Mart introduced its “Made in America” and “Bring it Home to the USA” campaigns. Broadcast and other news outlets soon exposed the gross deceptions in this ploy forcing Wal-Mart to drop the marketing campaign. In fact, just recently, a new book entitled China, Inc. found that 70% of the items sold by Wal-Mart are manufactured in third world countries, most notable China.
“The UFCW, and all of working America, is deeply troubled by Wal-Mart’s exploitation of ABC News,” stated Hansen. “Wal-Mart’s use of its ‘Only in America’ sponsorship is simply another cynical attempt to deceive customers about Wal-Mart’s responsibility for sending more jobs overseas than any other American corporation and lowering U.S. wages.”
In addition to its letter to ABC News, the UFCW has launched an on-line petition for people to join the call to stop Wal-Mart’s sponsorship of this series. The petition can be found at www.ufcw.org.
March 18, 2005
Statement by UFCW International President Joe Hansen
Regarding Wal-Mart Immigrants Settlement
Today’s record $11 million fine against Wal-Mart should be a wake-up call to a corporation that has systematically bent and broken the law to increase their corporate coffers at the expense of the most vulnerable employees.
While Wal-Mart may have settled this case with the federal government, the jury is still out as to whether they will change their exploitive behavior.
Following the child labor settlement just a few weeks ago, this record fine further illustrates that Wal-Mart’s corporate culture of greed and arrogance is completely out of step with basic American values.
March 18, 2005
According to workers at Wal-Mart stores in Germany, the giant retailer is attempting to impose a code of conduct on employees, complete with a secret informant hot line. Workers are under threat of job loss if they fail to report co-workers of suspected code violations.
It isn’t lost on the Germans and other Europeans that not so long ago communists in East Germany relied on informant machinery run by its infamous security force.
One of the provisions in the company’s code forbids intimate relationships among co-workers, and requires employees to inform on each if they suspect violations.
Ulrich Dalibor, head of German union ver.di’s retail trade sector, charged Wal-Mart with a serious violation of German law by issuing its ethics code before consulting the worker-management councils. Under German law, employee-management councils must agree on a wide range of workplace policies.
Charging Wal-Mart with employing a double standard, Dalibor said that while the company imposes a code of conduct on employees, it abstains from imposing any such standards on its own behavior.
Wal-Mart faces worldwide condemnation for choosing to close a Canadian store rather than agree to a fair and impartial settlement for wages and benefits with unionized workers. Wal-Mart has been cited by nine U.S. states for having an inordinate number of its employees receiving taxpayer provided medical assistance. The company, which has cheated workers out of pay, faces the largest sex-discrimination suit in U.S. history. Numerous other Wal-Mart actions that fail to meet responsible standards can be found at www.ufcw.org.
March 17, 2005
Washington DC—In Arkansas, the birthplace and headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the state’s Department of Human Services released damning figures yesterday stating that the retail giant leads the list of top 10 employers whose workers are receiving state welfare. Arkansas is the ninth state to release such figures recently, showing Wal-Mart consistently ranking at or near the top in total employees on state aid.
According to a statement by the United Food and Commercial Workers at www.ufcw.org, “Wal-Mart is in the midst of a multi-million dollar media effort in an attempt to hide serious employment practice problems. When the company continues to price health care coverage out of reach of approximately 700,000 employees nationwide, it’s bound to force workers onto state aid programs and force taxpayers to foot the bill for Wal-Mart’s irresponsible corporate behavior.”
The Arkansas study shows that nearly 4,000 of the companies 45,106 employees are on public assistance, with a vast majority of them receiving Medicaid for their children. Food stamps and transitional employment make up the rest of the public assistance, costing the state $39.6 million per year.
“Wal-Mart—one of the richest companies in the world—has cheated workers out of pay, shifts health care costs to taxpayers, faces the largest sex discrimination suit in history, and puts illegal operations into motion whenever workers seek a voice on the job,” noted the UFCW statement. “It’s a company where fairness for employees and taxpayers in communities where Wal-Mart operates is hard to find. Every one, in one way or another, has to pick up the tab for Wal-Mart’s irresponsible conduct.””
While Wal-Mart claims to have similar health care coverage as other large retailers, a recent Harvard Business School study shows otherwise. The study, conducted in 2002, shows that Wal-Mart spent an average of $3,500 a year on health care for each employee, compared with $4,800 for the average retailer and $5,600 for the average U.S. company. In Tennessee these numbers are even worse, with 9,617 of Wal-Mart’s 3,700 employees, or 26%, on state aid according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
This nation-wide trend is putting pressure on state health care systems. To contrast the problem of employers like Wal-Mart shifting the cost of health care on to taxpayers, twenty-six state legislatures are currently considering bills to require states to disclose which employers are abusing state public health care programs.
Wal-Mart is in the midst of a multi-million dollar media effort in an attempt to hid serious employment practice problems. When the company continues to price health care coverage out of reach of approximately 700,000 employees nationwide, it’s bound to force workers onto state aid programs and force taxpayers to foot the bill for Wal-Mart’s irresponsible corporate behavior.
Wal-Mart—one of the richest companies in the world—has cheated workers out of pay, shifts health care costs to taxpayers, faces the largest sex discrimination suit in history, and puts illegal operations into motion whenever workers seek a voice on the job. It’s a company where fairness for employees and taxpayers in communities where Wal-Mart operates is hard to find. Every one, in one way or another, has to pick up the tab for Wal-Mart’s irresponsible conduct.
March 10, 2005
Joseph T. Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) was named to a 14-member Citizens’ Health Care Working Group. Hansen is the only representative from organized labor working with the esteemed group of health care providers, economists, health care advocates and other leaders.
The fourteen panelists, named by the Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker, were assembled from more than 500 applicants and are charged with the duty of holding a national dialogue on issues relating to health care services, delivery and cost.
“I am deeply honored to serve in this vital endeavor to address the growing health care crisis and I look forward to working with my fellow panelists,” said Hansen. “The nation’s health care tab is already the highest in the world, and I am committed to exploring solutions that will reduce costs while improving care for the greatest number of people.”
The working group was created by Congress and will hold hearings and community meetings across the country on health coverage and cost issues, and, ultimately, issue a “Health Report to the American People.”
As the leader of the 1.4 million-member UFCW, Hansen represents America’s neighborhood union. UFCW members put food on the table for America’s families, working in neighborhood supermarkets, as well as in meatpacking, food processing and other industries.
With more than 40 years of experience negotiating contracts covering wages, health care benefits, pensions and other workplace benefits, Hansen is acutely aware of the nation’s health care crisis. He understands how rising health care costs are forcing a downward pressure on workers’ living standards. He also knows first-hand how skyrocketing costs are encouraging some employers to scale back and eliminate employee health care plans in order to gain competitive advantages in their industries.
“The health care crisis is a national problem that requires a national solution,” said Hansen. “I have great confidence that our group can lay the foundation for bringing America together to confront this challenge.”
February 24, 2005
Wal-Mart used children for hazardous jobs in its U.S. stores according to a U.S. Labor Department investigation as reported in the New York Times on February 12, 2005. Wal-Mart is being sued for sexual harassment in Florida by the federal government as reported in the Bradenton Herald on February 18, 2005. Wal-Mart was cited in Alabama for having the most employees on taxpayer-funded Medicaid health program as reported in the Associated Press on February 22, 2005. Wal-Mart is the target of a Georgia legislative initiative on companies with large number of employees receiving taxpayer-funded health care after it was revealed the retail giant ranked number one for employees on the government health program as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on February 23, 2005.
In a ten-day period, Wal-Mart compiled a virtually unmatched public record of abusive, illegal and irresponsible conduct involving women, children and taxpayers. These most recent reports come on top of Wal-Mart already facing the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history, court convictions for forcing employees to work without pay, and government complaints for the illegal firing and intimidation of workers for exercising workplace rights. In Canada, Wal-Mart is closing a store and taking away the livelihoods of almost 200 workers rather than comply with the law providing a fair and impartial process to reach a contract with workers.
So what does Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott do? He delivers a speech attacking the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).
In his speech delivered in Los Angeles yesterday, Scott glibly ignored the company’s very public record of shameful conduct; blamed the UFCW and other critics (the “guppies” according an earlier Scott pronouncement) for his problems; and, created an alternative reality where low wages, unaffordable benefits, the massive export of U.S. jobs to overseas sweatshops, the suppression of worker rights and taxpayer subsidies for the giant retailer have somehow made the world a better place.
The Scott speech continues a public relations offensive launched several weeks ago to prop up the company’s sagging image, pump up stagnate stock prices, and sidestep holiday season reports that competitors from Sears to Best Buy offered lower prices. The speech contains the same willful distortions and Orwellian double-talk as the company’s ad campaign. Repeating a lie does not make it true.
Scott brags, as did the ads, about the number of full-time employees– except full time in Wal-Mart speak is about 30 hours a week, not 40 hours as in the rest of reality. Scott proudly proclaims that Wal-Mart’s average wages are about twice the minimum wage. He ignores that Wal-Mart uses its enormous political clout– the largest political giver in 2004– to keep the minimum wage in real terms at its lowest level in decades. Even at the supposed Wal-Mart average wage, a family with a Wal-Mart income is still left scraping the poverty line. Scott cites Wal-Mart health insurance as a positive, but fails to mention that 700,000 Wal-Mart associates do not have the company’s health insurance, and that those who do, pay more on average than employees of other major companies.
In instance after instance, Scott contorts the facts to serve his own purposes. He cites the lack of opposition to his company in communities across California, and declares opposition to Wal-Mart is limited to urbanized areas– except the overwhelming majority of Californians live in those urbanized areas. He talks about company tax payments, but doesn’t mention the tax costs the retailer imposes on states and communities with its low wages and lack of affordable health benefits.
Despite Scott’s protestations, Wal-Mart is not just a simple retailer. Wal-Mart is the largest single economic force in history. It is the largest private employer in the country, and the largest corporation in the world. Walton family members comprise five of the ten richest people in the world. About one percent of the wealth of just one of the Walton richest five would provide affordable health insurance for all Wal-Mart workers in the U.S. Wal-Mart is about high profits, not low prices.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has 1.4 million members working in neighborhood supermarkets, retail stores, meat packing and food processing plants. UFCW retail members work for major retailers such as Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons.