Wal-Mart Meeting Contained Unauthorized Words

We've all heard by now that Wal-Mart held meetings with its store managers and supervisors across the country informing them that if a Democrat was elected President, the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would most likely become law.

Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar has stated, "We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time. We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do."

Now, according to The Wall Street Journal, "Prominent labor groups are seeking an investigation into whether Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. violated federal election laws". These groups apparently delivered a letter to the Federal Election Commission today asking for an investsigation to determine whether or not Wal-Mart "made prohibited corporate expenditures" for these meetings.

Apparently, companies are not supposed to "expressly advocate to hourly employees the election or defeat of specific candidates" per federal law.

Dudes, I totally didn't know that. I just thought it was tacky and annoying. But, apparently, it's against federal law too! My next thought is: Are Wal-Mart supervisors and managers hourly employees? I'm guessing the supervisors are but, the managers? Not sure. Hit me up in the comments if you know.

In their defense, Wal-Mart spokespeople are saying they did nothing wrong and that they did not tell anyone who to vote for or against.

The clincher? A Wal-Mart employee in a "Southern state" apparently has a digital recording of one of the meetings. Per The WSJ,

According to the recording, the meeting leader, a human-resources manager, began by saying she was going to talk about the company and unions and "a little bit of politics," specifically the Employee Free Choice Act. The leader said that the bill almost passed last year. "If Democrats get the votes they need and elect a Democratic president, they said it will be the first bill presented and that's scary," she said.

Wal-Mart's Tovar said the meeting leader's use of the word scary was "unauthorized." [emphasis mine]

Is Wal-Mart seriously going to throw an HR manager (that they allegedly required to hold these meetings) under the bus? For real?

The senior management made a decision to hold meetings to "inform" employees about something and when they are publicly criticized (some would say "condemned") for it, they imply a rogue HR manager was just effing around with the lingo.

Come. On.

What more, in the recording the leader also apparently told the employees,

  • Their wages may be reduced to minimum wage for up to 3 months before a contract is negotiated.
  • The union authorization cards violate worker's right to privacy by including their Social Security Number.
  • If a small unit within a store votes to unionize, the entire store will be unionized.

Uh oh.

If The WSJ is accurately quoting the recording, Wally World could be in big troubs for this. That stuff isn't even true under current labor law, let alone under the proposed EFCA. I smell an unfair labor practice accusation brewing.

Wait.

I think the bus that recently plowed down the HR manager a few paragraphs ago is pulling a U turn,

Wal-Mart said that the three comments regarding minimum wage, Social Security numbers and unionizing small units don't reflect Wal-Mart's understanding of the law and weren't included in its training. [emphasis mine]

 

Jenn Barnes has worked in human resources since 2001 and loves to hate it.  She blogs at HR Wench & HRM Today.  Follow her on Twitter and email your HR questions to hrwench at gmail dot com.

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