Union protestors are descending on Walmart stores across the country this week as the company’s shareholders meet at their Arkansas headquarters. The protestors have issued their typical calls for higher wages and other standard demands, but their main motive appears to be the disruption of Walmart’s business and the continuation of a smear campaign against America’s top private sector employer.
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Unfortunately, this is typical union boss behavior. Similar antics were on display last month in the run-up to the McDonald’s shareholders’ meeting in Oak Brook, Illinois, when more than 130 demonstrators – very few of whom were actually employees – were arrested after refusing to vacate the driveway of the McDonald’s corporate offices. Protest activity forced McDonald’s to close their main headquarters building and some 2,000 of their employees were told to stay home from work.
It’s no coincidence that the actions against McDonald’s and Walmart seem similar. Both are textbook cases of top-down, nationally-coordinated disruption strategies orchestrated by labor front groups for some of the country’s biggest unions. In Illinois, demonstrations were led by a group called Fast Food Forward, while the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) provided bodies and financed the picket lines by the busload.
The anti-Walmart protests are being organized by a group calling itself the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), which claims on its website to be “an independent, not-for-profit organization” for Walmart employees. Documents filed with the Department of Labor, however, clearly identify OUR Walmart as a “subsidiary organization” of the massive United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. All the more interesting is the UFCW’s admission that OUR Walmart is “maintained in Washington, D.C.,” which removes any shred of belief that these protests are organic, grassroots efforts. In fact, once again, these protests have been demonstrated to be full of paid protestors acting as employees and do not demonstrate the will of Walmart employees.
OUR Walmart is a prime example of what’s known as a “worker center.” Worker centers are groups set up not as labor organizations – strictly speaking – but as nonprofits despite being basically owned and operated by Big Labor. As such, they don’t have to follow the same rules that govern traditional unions, but are well funded, receiving revenue through a variety of different sources, nearly $60 million between 2009 and 2012, and they carry out activities like these recent protests which advance Big Labor’s agenda.
Why would union bosses need a separate, shadowy organization to do its bidding? The answer is desperation, plain and simple. Labor membership is declining – the percentage of workers that belong to unions has dropped by nearly half over the last thirty years, and stands at only 11.3 percent. As labor membership declines, revenue from member dues declines. And with the money drying up, Big Labor’s political clout is on the wane as well.
Labor bosses are, quite obviously, not taking this well. The head of the UFCW, Joseph Hansen, certainly would not want to compromise his position or the $297,971 salary that comes with it. Worker center front groups are just another desperate attempt by union bosses to cling to their fading power.
How high are the stakes for Big Labor? Well, the Chicago Tribune reports that the SEIU spent at least $2 million last year funding Fast Food Forward. By the scale of activity, the UFCW likely spent that and more funding their front group.
Simply put, Big Labor’s bullying tactics aren’t working anymore. Their organizing model is badly outdated and they’re struggling for relevance. What’s more, they choose to focus their efforts targeting retailers like Walmart, which supplies necessary products and services to communities all across the country, and provides over one million American jobs. President Obama – himself hardly an enemy of Big Labor – even chose a Walmart location recently to deliver a major energy policy speech.
Union bosses have no reason to attack Walmart other than their own self-interest and greed, the very qualities they say corporations espouse. But when labor resorts to creating shadowy, D.C.-based front groups to stage faux protests and disrupt Americans simply trying to work and shop, it begs the question: who’s really playing dirty?