Wal-Mart to HP Reap Worker Political Donations Through Charities - Bloomberg

So I talked a bit on the podcast, with the fabulous Liza Featherstone, about the story of Walmart employees being expected to donate food to their needy colleagues and how this demonstrates something about the corporate culture at Walmart that Bethany Moreton has explained so well.

Well, this is an even more fascinating twist on the whole story. 

In To Serve God and Wal-Mart, Moreton lays out the company’s twin narratives—the exploitation of (mostly female) caring labor for low wages, and the growth of Walmart as a political-ideological powerhouse. This latest report twines them both together perfectly. 

Walmart asks its employees to donate to its political work (which is not tax-deductible, though few Walmart associates probably make enough for tax deductions to matter, managers might) and will match that donation two-to-one to a charity. So: appealing to the workers’ better natures by offering a big charitable donation in exchange for a small political one. 

But the charity has to be the one that Walmart chooses—and it’s the one that Walmart controls, set up to donate to its own employees “facing financial distress.” 

Yes, that’s right. Instead of giving the associates a raise, Walmart prefers to donate to a “charity” of its own making, creating a fund to help out a few associates rather than spreading some wealth across the board. 

And that charity serves as a way to exploit workers’ feelings of care and support for one another to raise funds for its political lobbying—which focuses on “pro-business” policies that mostly harm those same workers. 

"Wal-Mart has been vocal on issues including the minimum wage," the article notes. 

And then there’s this: 

In 2009, IntercontinentalExchange Group Inc. (ICE), which operates global commodity and financial products marketplaces, asked the FEC for an advisory opinion on starting a double-matching program. The commission split evenly on the matter and issued no opinion. According to an audio recording of the meeting that April, three of six commissioners concluded double-matching would “skew the incentives” and “undercut the voluntariness” of contributions to the PAC. One said a double-match would “smack of buying off the contributor,” noting it could open the door to five-to-one matching or more.

So, while the practice as a whole is legal, the FEC is a little iffy as to whether double-matching “undercuts the voluntariness” of the money employees give to the political network. And “Tying the PAC and the charity could confuse donors,” according to a “former official at the Wal-Mart Foundation and associates charity,” who spoke anonymously. 

Right. 

The article notes that most of the people who contribute are managers rather than hourly associates, possibly because hourly associates don’t make enough money to make donations, charitable or otherwise, and also possibly because as Moreton notes, managers at Walmart are likely to have been picked for ideological reasons, from ideologically-aligned programs that Walmart funds at colleges and universities, and so on.

So they may well agree with the political direction that Walmart is steering them in. But even if they don’t, the company’s come up with yet another way to turn any potential care and solidarity they might have with their fellow workers to its advantage. 

Posted at 11:33am and tagged with: walmart, wal-mart, capitalism, classwar,.

Employees receive no tax deduction for the donations, as they do by giving to a charity directly. When soliciting employee contributions to PACs in exchange for charitable donations, companies typically say they want to increase voluntary participation in the political process and support pro-business candidates. Many companies offer a one-for-one match and donate the money to a charity of the employee’s choosing. Coca-Cola and HP both do this. Wal-Mart goes further. It offers a two-for-one match, and the contribution must go to the Associates in Critical Need Trust, or ACNT, a charity the company started in 2001 to help its own store workers facing financial distress. Wal-Mart gave the ACNT about $3.6 million in double-matching funds in the year that ended January 31, according to an audit of the charity’s financial filings.

Exclusive: Wal-Mart may get customers to deliver packages to online buyers

No, Walmart, it is not the “sharing economy” when the world’s richest company tries to save money by getting customers to deliver packages for it. It’s just getting around paying minimum wage for labor. 

Posted at 8:33am and tagged with: labor, walmart,.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc is considering a radical plan to have store customers deliver packages to online buyers, a new twist on speedier delivery services that the company hopes will enable it to better compete with Amazon.com Inc. Tapping customers to deliver goods would put the world’s largest retailer squarely in middle of a new phenomenon sometimes known as “crowd-sourcing,” or the “sharing economy.” A plethora of start-ups now help people make money by renting out a spare room, a car, or even a cocktail dress, and Wal-Mart would in effect be inviting people to rent out space in their vehicle and their willingness to deliver packages to others.

I couldn’t decide on a chunk of this piece to blockquote; it’s a longer, drawn out version of my post from last week about leaving a mess at Walmart as “direct action.” 

Posted at 8:51am and tagged with: classwar, labor, walmart, action,.

Storify of our road trip to New Jersey for Walmart Black Friday actions.

Posted at 10:34am and tagged with: walmart, classwar, labor,.

With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again | The Nation

Josh Eidelson’s report from Walmart in Maryland yesterday. Storifying my own tweets from Walmart yesterday—and I’ll have a writeup at some point. 

Posted at 10:23am and tagged with: classwar, walmart, labor,.

As he marched towards the Hanover Walmart this morning, former SEIU organizer Stephen Lerner credited the campaign with showing that workers, through strategic use of strikes, “can engage in actions that both make them feel powerful and that impact the company, and they don’t need to just spend their life waiting for some [National Labor Relations Board] process to demonstrate they want a union.” Lerner, the architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign, added, “What they’re really showing is, they’re acting like a union.” By 9 pm EST Friday, the day’s last major action, a picket in San Leandro, California, with a dragon puppet and a “brass liberation band,” had come to a close. The three workers who’d been arrested in the afternoon had made it safely home. Tomorrow, the Walmart strikers are headed back to work, with at least one exception: a San Leandro worker who wanted to strike but was scheduled for days off on Thursday and Friday. She’ll be striking tomorrow.

-Barbara Ehrenreich, in “Made to Order”, an essay in the anthology Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy, co-edited with Arlie Russell Hochschild. 

Relevant to an argument I just had on Twitter about “disruptive” protest at Walmart in supposed solidarity with the Black Friday strikes. Picket, protest, march and rally all you want, hold a sit-in, but please, before you do things like deliberately create a mess in the store or leave a full cart in the checkout line, consider who’s going to have to clean up the mess that you make. It’s not going to be Rob Walton or any of the other multibillionaires. It won’t even be the assistant manager. It’ll be the same low-wage worker who maybe wanted to go on strike but wasn’t quite convinced, or who was threatened by their boss, who’s working an extra-long shift on the worst shopping day of the year. 

Solidarity doesn’t mean you decide for yourself what is best for the workers. It means showing up in the ways they need and want you to and letting them decide how to build worker power. 

Posted at 3:45pm and tagged with: classwar, walmart, labor, protest,.

To make a mess that another person will have to deal with—the dropped socks, the toothpaste sprayed on the bathroom mirror, the dirty dishes left from a late-night snack—is to exert domination in one of its more silent and intimate forms.

Walmart rattled by growing unrest ahead of Black Friday’s strike | Sarah Jaffe | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

I wrote a piece for the Guardian placing the Walmart strikes into the larger context of American low wages and worker intimidation. 

Posted at 10:05am and tagged with: classwar, walmart, strikes, labor, organizing,.

Would people be so desperate for bargain shopping at already dirt-cheap places like Walmart if they themselves were making a decent living?


This year, Black Friday at Walmarts around the country will be marked by something other than just ultra-low prices. Workers, members of a labor union-backed organization called Organization United for Respect at Walmart (Our Walmart) will be striking and, along with their allies, holding rallies and actions to support the effort. Walmart has managed to go 50 years without a strike; many unions have tried and failed to organize workers. But in just a month and a half, the strikes have spread to stores across 12 cities, and Walmart is worried: the company has filed an unfair labor practices charge with the National Labor Relations Board.