Tag Archives: Bentonville

More Battles in the Walmart Wars: Florida, Strikes, and Delhi

walmart-headquartersNew Orleans    The war room in Bentonville must be on 24 hour Def-con 4 alert these days, given the steady back and forth of advances, feints, and setbacks due to its “profits first, workers last” mantra that is a foundation of its standard operating procedures.

            The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after waiting for weeks before issuing a complaint in hopes of a settlement between Walmart and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), went ahead and pulled the trigger setting in motion a long game legal procedure.  The complaint from the NLRB alleges that Walmart disciplined over 50 workers and fired over a dozen in violation of their protected rights to organize stemming from the Black Friday publicity strikes.  Ironically some of the evidence against Walmart comes from its remarks on national TV news reports, so add to the list of firings some people in their communications department that are probably already long gone. 

            There are two sure things underpinning these reports.  One is that if this goes to an ALJ, administrative law judge, hearing to prove the allegations, the delays, appeals, and everything could take seven or eight years.  The lawyers make the money, the workers get pennies even if they win.  Secondly, if the NLRB was waiting for negotiations before issuing the complaint, then this was the time that the UFCW tried to convert its publicity strikes strategy into real organizing leverage and concessions from Walmart.  The rest is show, this was the real strategy.  The complaint being issued may look like good news but really signals a setback for the strategy and a failure to gain organizing advantages, and that’s a damn shame.

            Walmart always spinning joined with the worker advocacy organization in Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to issue a statement that they were joining the Fair Food Program managed by the Coalition which guarantees an extra penny to raise farmworker wages and combat sexual harassment.  You can follow this right?  We may look like bad guys, but, hey, we’re ok, look we’re helping some poor, immigrant farmworkers.

            Meanwhile confirming that perhaps cutting and running from India finally was the right thing to do, ACORN International’s FDI Watch Campaign (www.indiafdiwatch.org) spread the news this week that the new government in the Delhi political jurisdiction has listened to the protests and has now rejected the modifications in foreign direct investment given to multinationals for multi-brand retail and threatening millions of small traders, shopkeepers, hawkers and others.  A “do not enter” sign is now going up around Delhi, and it will be a while before anything changes that warning sign.

            There’s no ceasefire in the Walmart wars, but the fight is very much still on.


Hard to Ignore: Walmart in Bad Trouble

Little Rock   Ok, Walmart is a huge business behemoth with millions of workers and billions of dollars in revenue, but the deafening roar of bad news is hard to paint a smiley face over and pretend everything is coming up roses in Bentonville.

The emperor’s nakedness in India, where the India FDI Watch Campaign and ACORN International are still working to force real regulations and requirements on foreign multi-brand retailers before foreign investment restrictions are relaxed, is increasingly impossible to gloss over.  Despite a fawning business press in India, recent reports noted that the company was only able to open 5 new stores rather than the 15 or so they had projected for 2012, and there are no signs that the numbers will speed up more for 2013.  Walmart can blame the problems of regulations and logistics, but the truth is that the Walmart business model is predicated on domination through control of logistics, so if this isn’t working for them, nothing in India will produce the profits they need.  On the regulations end, ongoing investigations of their corporate culture of bribery are slowing down their ability now to, how can I say, “grease those wheels.”

Michele Obama’s office and her fresh food initiative was forced to put out a release from the White House that Walmart was a “good partner,” after industry reports about the declining freshness of their produce, based on customer surveys, called into question all of their claims of a fresher, healthier set of offerings in their grocery departments.  I hope the White House had more to say than that, because the industry observers were clear that the real reason they are having trouble on freshness is that they have drastically reduced staffing by 15% or more at their superstores, and the stocking crew simply cannot keep up with the square footage and the requirements of constant, timely refrigeration required by fresh food items.   When the nation’s largest private sector employer cuts 15% of its workforce that translates into hundreds of thousands of jobs squeezed out of the economy.  In Walmart’s case, that also means reduced hours for those that are left minding the store.

Oh, and, please, let’s not forget the whole corporate culture of corruption and bribery, first exposed in Mexico and then India and China.  With efforts announced by the new leadership in China that corruption at the top has to stop or the Party is in trouble, Walmart under the gun may not be able to pull the trigger as quickly to implement future expansion.   More than 55% of the company revenues come from overseas operations, so cutting down the growth engine in places like India and China also spells real trouble for their business model.

Banks may be “too big to fail,” but Walmart needs to start learning that retail and grocery chains are failing all of the time.  A look around the malls at Sears, JC Penney, K-Mart, Krogers, and scores of others should be enough to encourage some humility, but that also has never been part of the Walmart corporate culture.