In 2010, the Daily Show humiliated the United Food and Commercial Workers for hiring temporary workers at $8.25 an hour with no benefits to protest Walmart over low pay and lack of benefits.
The Daily Show correspondent encouraged the UFCW’s paid protestors to organize into their own “protestor union” and picket the UFCW for their pay practices, hours and work conditions. In an embarrassing episode that you would think the UFCW uses as a case study for what not to do (ever, ever, ever again), apparently practices within the union hasn't changed much over the past five years.
(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Just a few months ago, the UFCW’s hypocrisy reared its head for the public eye to view as Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) organizers claim they were fired by the UFCW for attempting to organize their own union.
The claim centers on efforts in Seattle. Of course, the OUR Walmart campaign workers were non-union. The union appears to only be in favor of membership dues that draw from someone else’s treasury. According to the New York Post’s account, “The UFCW 'is all for workers’ rights yet it denied its own staff union contracts and didn’t pay us overtime and eventually fired us for reaching out to a union,' the ousted worker said.”
Observers of the Black Friday protests should be picking up on a common theme over the past five years of the UFCW’s campaign against Walmart. It’s a faux, astroturf effort based on paid protestors, not Walmart workers, that doesn’t live up to its own rhetoric. This isn’t a grassroots uprising, it’s a top down campaign that according to the former OUR Walmart staff tramples its own workers in an effort to win new revenues from their corporate target.
The New York Post piece also raises a few other interesting points.
OUR Walmart has always claimed that it was not engaged in a union organizing campaign, but was rather shining a light on practices at Walmart. However, to quote one of the fired UFCW employees: “As union organizers, it’s our job to teach people about their labor rights and how to be more effective at Walmart.”
That sounds a lot like the role of traditional union organizer.
Also in a too strange to be true tale, the UFCW recently fired the coordinators of the OUR Walmart campaign.
According to Politico they "were fired because [they] hijacked the board and refused democratic elections...[and] because of mistakes they made that led to seven injunctions in seven states...that angered workers.”
The UFCW maintains that these now fired coordinators were responsible for firing the Seattle staff that were attempting to organize a union. The coordinators responded that it wasn’t them, but was the UFCW human resources department. Those same coordinators have now set up a competing OUR Walmart organization at the AFL-CIO. The two groups are now fighting over the name.
It may have been the butler with the candlestick in the parlor… But the truth is we’ll probably never know exactly what happened. What we do know is that the OUR Walmart campaign in any iteration doesn’t live up to its rhetoric, and the Black Friday protests are about unions discovering new income streams.
Meanwhile, the UFCW will keep on message (until a whistleblower again derails them) and will continue petitioning workers to join their union. Workers would be wise to recount these episodes, and, in response, quote the great Jerry Seinfeld, “And you want to be my latex salesman."
Ashley Pratte is a senior adviser to Worker Center Watch.
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