Opinion

The Smoke And Mirrors Of OUR Walmart

Ashley Pratte Vice President of Communications, FP1 Strategies

Last week, OUR Walmart announced it would be re-launching its campaign to protect workers and worker conditions at Walmart.

This is an interesting announcement coming on the heels of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union members recently electing new leadership that ran on a platform to put an end to the OUR Walmart campaign. The first step they took was to fire OUR Walmart’s longtime leaders Dan Schlademan and Andrea Dehlendorf and cut funding for the program by more than half.

But, admitting failure and closing the doors on a campaign against the country’s largest employer doesn’t exactly match the soaring rhetoric that the labor movement is in the midst of the resurgence. The UFCW’s parent organization, the AFL-CIO, is smart enough to recognize this fact, and now they will be picking up the reins. In reality, the new OUR Walmart is nothing more than the old OUR Walmart network drawing from a new bank account, but UFCW seems reluctant to give up the reins.

With the announcement, the OUR Walmart campaign issued a list of about twenty AFL-CIO non-profit front groups that they will be using to lead protests and reputational attacks against Walmart. Not only have these listed groups been a part of the AFL-CIO’s stable of “allied organizations,” and “worker center partners,” but they have been the backbone of the original OUR Walmart campaign. However, it should be noted that for the first time since OUR Walmart’s founding, the UFCW was excluded from this list of partner organizations.

As one could guess based on the disorganized current state of “organized” labor — recently members have been leaving their unions in droves and private union membership is at an all-time low — the re-launch of the new OUR Walmart campaign didn’t go so smoothly. People were very quick to notice the discrepancies about the funding of the new campaign, because the UFCW plans to continue to financially support its own OUR Walmart campaign separate from the new one. The real kicker here is that the UFCW is now arguing about the rights to the organization’s name and brand, showing complete discord and dysfunction.

Sadly, this is what we have come to expect from unions and their front groups — constantly trolling for more union dues and seeking to unionize stores and restaurants. The mismanagement and disorganization just shows how desperate and out-of-touch these groups are with workers — especially when their hard earned money is wasted on disorganization.

The truth is that the demise of the UFCW’s OUR Walmart campaign was aided in part by a series of strategic missteps. Courts in several states barred members of UFCW and OUR Walmart from trespassing on Walmart property, and OUR Walmart was charged with illegally picketing time and again. The most critical error was that the UFCW subsidiary, under pressure, registered as a “labor organization,” properly identifying itself as a union. However, Walmart workers time and again have rejected union attempts to organize.

The new OUR Walmart will get to discard their union designation and again embark on a stealth union organizing campaign, just without the union title. The AFL-CIO has invested in this campaign to hide behind worker center front groups in an attempt to deceive workers to join their campaign. This is just the latest development in Big Labor’s underhanded tactics to woo members aboard its sinking ship. Don’t be deceived by the smoke and mirrors.

Ashley Pratte is a senior adviser to Worker Center Watch.