Fighting to unionize Wal-Mart

By Jason Netek and Matt Camp

DALLAS, Texas--If ever there was a workplace that needed a union, it's Wal-Mart, and if ever there was a time for such a union, it's now.

This is the sentiment of 33 labor activists who attended a rally supporting Wal-Mart workers' right to organize on June 2, in South Dallas.

Representatives from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United Food and Commercial Workers and roughly 10 Wal-Mart associates from Wal-Mart Workers for Change spoke and rallied in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a congressional bill intended to streamline union organizing.

Members of Jobs With Justice, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Students for a Democratic Society and steelworkers involved in a similar struggle at Great Western Erectors attended in solidarity.

Wal-Mart is notoriously anti-union and infamous for its commitment to low wages, job insecurity and illegal labor practices.

"Having to cover three to five different departments by myself in one night, while being timed--this feels like modern-day slavery," said Mark Moore, a 51-year-old Wal-Mart employee of three years and union militant. Mark has been signing up his coworkers in support of a union in spite of consistent threats and harassment by management.

In one incident of harassment, a manager intentionally knocked down toys Mark that was stocking, leaving him to shelve the toys all over again.

Donna Morehead, a Wal-Mart employee for the past four years, highlighted the hypocrisy at her store. "They tell us we're the number one store in our district, but we earn less than [employees do at] the other stores." Morehead continued, "Sometimes we get put on the schedule for eight days straight. If you get overtime for working eight days straight, you can get written up."

The rally did not go unnoticed by Wal-Mart management. It seemed that the entire regional management team observed the rally from an air-conditioned patio, only venturing from the comfort of their roost to disrupt rally supporters from handing out leaflets in the store parking lot. Supporters retaliated with the stirring chants of "What do we want? A free choice!" and the promise "We'll be back! We'll be back!"

The following day, members of Wal-Mart Workers for Change and organizers for SEIU attended a local ISO meeting, screening a brief film on the necessity of a union at Wal-Mart, and holding a question-and-answer session in which they attested to the repression, sexism and unfair labor practices perpetrated by the company.

All advocates of social justice should be on the look out for ways to build solidarity and support for these courageous workers at Wal-Mart in Dallas and around the country.