Wal-Mart and US Politics

Several American labour groups have filed a complaint against Wal-Mart for instructing its employees to vote against Obama and other Democrats. I first got wind of this electoral controversy a couple of weeks ago through The Hamilton Spectator, which printed an Associated Press story that succinctly outlines Wal-Mart’s actions and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) against which these actions are directed.

Wal-Mart spokesmen do not deny that company officials told employees how to vote. Instead, they claim that these officials were “acting without approval.” An editorial to be printed in tomorrow’s New York Times appropriately pans this defence.

Canadian trade unionists should pay attention to this episode. Some components of the Democratic agenda, such as banning the permanent replacement of striking workers, would simply grant unionized Americans basic protections that unionized Canadians have long taken for granted. However, by permitting card-check certification, EFCA would set the procedural barriers to union organizing lower in the US than in most Canadian provinces.

EFCA also provides for first-contract arbitration and mediation as well as stronger penalties for violations of the existing National Labor Relations Act. Since Obama has personally sponsored EFCA, there is good reason to expect that a Democratic victory will result in its implementation.

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