Leaked Docs Expose Walmart's Guides to Stomp Out Worker Mobilization

Leaked internal documents reveal Walmart’s attempts to stop workers from mobilizing for fair wages and decent workplace conditions.

The documents are two PowerPoint Presentations from the retail giant directed at employees and were published at OccupyWallSt.org on Wednesday.

The first PowerPoint is a takedown of OUR Walmart, which is a group of associates of Walmart working for workplace dignity and fairness. Walmart’s presentation on OUR Walmart says that the group just collects money from associates ($5 per month) and that its goal is not to help workers. Rather, Walmart claims, the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) takes and spends the dues in a way that harms Walmart and its associates.

UFCW and OUR Walmart have stated that they “have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees,” and that their goal is to help Walmart employees achieve labor rights.

Another presentation which appears to be aimed at managers says that Walmart is a target for unionization not because of its poverty wages and attempts to intimidate employees but because of its high number of workers, because that would bring mean more union dues.

The PowerPoint reminds managers of their “Duty of Loyalty,” which means they must indicate they support Walmart’s position and must “report union activity to the Labor Relations Hotline immediately.”


It offers a list of stock “opinions” to provide to workers when they question managers about unionization:

“For a Walmart associate, I think unions are a waste of money. You can speak for yourself.
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“In my opinion, unions just want to hurt Walmart and make it harder to run our business.”
“I don’t think we need a union at this Walmart or any other Walmart. I think the Open Door is a great way to deal with concerns.”

Yet a “Declaration of Respect” previously issued by OurWalmart states: “Associates who have tried to utilize Walmart’s Open Door have found that their issues are not resolved and confidentiality is not respected.”

In addition, the presentation offers “Early Warning Signs” an associate might be considering unionization, such as “speaking negatively about wages and benefits” or “asking for a witness to be present.”

Also on Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) accused Walmart of violating workers’ rights in 13 states when it retaliated against workers by surveilling, threatening, disciplining or terminating employees for engaging in legally protected strikes or protests.

“Walmart workers like me are calling for better jobs for all Americans,” Colby Harris, a fired worker from Lancaster, Texas, said in a statement. “It’s not right that so many of us are struggling to get by on less than $25,000 a year while the Waltons have more wealth than 42% of American families combined. Today the federal government confirmed that Walmart is not above the law, will be held accountable, and I have rights.”


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Over One Million Voices to European Parliament: Stop Water Privatization

Nearly nearly 1.7 million Europeans symbolically brought their voices to Brussels on Monday to say “water is a human right,” not a commodity to be privatized.

The action comes as a result the first European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)—a tactic through which EU citizens can propose legislation if they show backing from at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states. There is also a minimum number of signatories per member state required.

The campaign behind this first ECI, the Right2water, has three main goals. “Implement the human right to water, do not liberalize water services in the EU and do more to ensure people across the world have access to clean and safe water,” stated Jan Willem Goudriaan, vice-president of the ECI Right2Water.

“We want the EU to change their mind-set from its current focus on competition and completely market-based approach, to a public service attitude and a rights-based approach. Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. It is a ‘natural’ monopoly and must be kept out of internal market rules,” the campaign adds on its website.

This rights-based approach is far from controversial, Gabriella Zanzanaini, Director of European Affairs for the watchdog group Food & Water Europe, told Common Dreams in an email.  “Time and time again through referendums and petitions, citizens have made it evident that they do not want water to be treated as a commodity and that it should be a public service,” she stated.

Representatives of Right2Water, which has the backing of the European Anti Poverty Network, European Public Health Alliance and the European Trade Union Confederation, presented their proposal to Commission Vice-President Šefčovič and senior Commission officials, and had a public hearing in the European Parliament.


At the hearing, Zanzanaini said, it was “also mentioned that for every dollar invested in water, the social return is many times higher. In austerity-hit countries, it is especially important that privatization does not occur as people cannot afford to pay even higher bills.”

“What the troika has been doing actually goes against the EU Treaty,” she continued.  “It was mentioned many times today that the water management model falls under a Member States competency and not the EU, and yet by imposing water privatization through loan conditionalities on countries like Greece and Portugal it is doing the opposite.”

Speaking to press ahead of the hearing, Šefčovič said it was a “good day for grassroots democracy,” while a spokesperson from Right2Water said she was happy to be there “not only to present our initiative but also our demands. We’ll see now how we can organize to make this demand, to make water… a human right.”

The Commission has until 20 March to decide on its response to the initiative.


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Permission to Abuse Animals: Idaho's 'Ag-Gag' Bill Signed Into Law

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law on Friday legislation that criminalizes those who secretly document abuse of animals at agricultural facilities.

The widely opposed bill, SB 1337, came about following an undercover video released by animal welfare group Mercy for Animals that showed workers torturing cows.

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The bill had the backing of the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry.

Otter issued a statement that “Senate Bill 1337 is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood.”


But as journalist and Green Is the New Red author Will Potter explained, the bill means “the whistleblowers who exposed the cruelty face criminal penalties worse than those who committed the abuse.”

Mercy For Animals founder and executive director Nathan Runkle denounced Otter’s signing of the bill, stating that the “new law will now throw shut the doors to industrial factory farms and allow animal abuse, environmental violations, and food contamination to flourish undetected, unchallenged, and unaddressed.”

The so-called ag-gag law will “perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply,” Runkle stated. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”


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Jailing of Mentally Ill Has Turned US Prisons into 'Inhumane' Asylums: Study

There are ten times more people with severe mental illnesses in U.S. jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals, and conditions of incarceration—including abuse and denial of care—are causing the health of this vulnerable population to decline even further.

This is according to a damning study, (PDF), released Wednesday by the Treatment Advocacy Center—a non-profit organization that seeks to eliminate barriers to mental health care.

The report argues that decades of cuts and closures of state psychiatric hospitals have transformed jails and prisons into the modern-day asylums.

According to the study, there are 356,268 people with serious mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, currently locked in U.S. prisons and jails. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, the report states, “a prison or jail in that state holds more individuals with serious mental illness than the largest remaining state psychiatric hospital.”


While locked up, people with mental illnesses face a litany of horrors that can include: abuse, denial of care, physical attacks, overcrowding, and “[r]elegation in grossly disproportionate numbers to solitary confinement”—factors that are causing the severity of this population’s mental illnesses to grow. “The consequences of putting mentally ill people into prisons and jails are often tragic,” states the report, leading to disproportionate suicides among the population.

The report argues that high rates of incarceration for mentally ill people mark a return to the policies of the 1770 to 1820 period in the U.S., during which mentally ill people “were routinely confined in prisons and jails”—practices that later came to be regarded as “inhumane and problematic.” Yet, while, “[h]alf a century ago, such reports would have elicited spirited public discussion and proposals for reform; now they elicit a collective public yawn,” reads the report.

“This is scary and brutal,” Isaac Ontiveros of prison abolition organization Critical Resistance told Common Dreams. “Once again it should be very clear imprisonment is devastating to individual and public health.”

“The best places for people to get health care they need is in their communities,” said Ontiveros. “If we want to invest in the health and well-being of communities and the people who make them up, we have to prioritize programs and services in those communities and deprioritize incarceration, criminalization, and policing.”


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Wolff wants F1 to do a better job promoting hybrids

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes Formula 1 should be doing more to promote the benefits of hybrid engine technology.

His comments come at a time of fresh doubt for the future technical direction of world championship in the wake of Honda’s decision to stop supplying power units to Red Bull and AlphaTauri at the end of 2021.

The Japanese manufacturer cited its commitment to a carbon neutral future as being behind the decision to pull out, although the cost of developing the complex hybrid technology used by F1 will surely have been an additional factor.

It leaves F1 with just three engine suppliers. Mercedes sells customer units to Williams and Racing Point while Ferrari powers Alfa Romeo and Haas. Renault currently provided engines to McLaren, but they will switch to the Mercedes camp next season.

Mercedes has dominated F1’s recent hybrid era, and Wolff is disappointed that the sport has not done more to help promote the technology as a whole.

“I believe we are not telling the hybrid story well enough,” he told Autosport magazine. “We are a pretty good showcase for hybrid technology.”

In particular, Wolff praised the current power units for offering “50 per cent thermal efficiency”.

He also singled out “the complexity and technology that exists in these cars with the energy recovery with kinetic energy or exhaust gases, the batteries that we’re using and the technology within them” as key selling points.

“We’re still lacking the messaging that these engines are fantastic hybrid technology, but they’re much too expensive,” he acknowledged.

The current engine regulations are due to last until 2026, but Honda’s departure – and the lack of any interest from other engine menufacturers to come into F1 – had prompted calls for this to be be brought forward.

“When you look at the costs involved in the engine supply, they are enormous,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner explained. “That is why F1 has failed in its attempt to attract new engine suppliers and new manufacturers into the sport.

“Honda’s withdrawal is a real shame for F1, but also a real wake-up call.”

The question is what direction the next generation of engines will go in. With road cars increasingly phasing out petrol-powered combustion engines in favour of electric vehicles, F1 could soon end up converging with Formula E.

“The next generation of power units, whenever they come, will lend even more to sustainable energy recovery and sustainable propulsion systems in the future,” Wulff suggested.

“We know now that we have to look at the costs,” he acknowledged. “We don’t want to make the same mistake that we are purely engineering driven like with these power units.

“But [we must] make sure they are something innovative, sustainable, powerful, fuel efficient – and at a reasonable price.”

Mercedes could clinch its seventh consecutive constructors title this weekend at the Portuguese Grand Prix, although it remains a somewhat unlikely scenario.

With six races still to go, Mercedes have 391 points compared to Red Bull’s 211. It means if Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finish in the top two, then their main rivals would need to pick up at least five points between them to keep the championship alive.

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

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$4.5 Million Settlement for Anti-War Veteran, Occupy Activist Injured by Oakland Police

Scott Olsen, the protester and a memebr of Iraq Veterans Against the War who was gravely injured during a public march in Oakland at the height of the Occupy movement in 2011, has been awarded a $4.5 million settlement by the city.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Olsen appeared on Democracy Now! on Friday to discuss his case and the settlement:

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Walmart Gets $7.8 Billion 'Bill' for Its Taxpayer-Funded Breaks, Subsidies

Walmart and the Walton family are the recipients of “special treatment” thanks to a tax system that allows them to rake in $7.8 billion a year from tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies, a new report reveals.

Armed with this news, a group of Walmart workers and taxpayers delivered a $7.8 billion tax bill — an amount that could be used to fund over 105,000 new public school teachers — to the Phoenix-area home of Walmart Chairman Rob Walton.

“Even though Walmart is making $16 billion in profits, the Waltons seem to think the American people should be providing them another $8 billion in tax breaks,” Anthony Goytia, who’s worked at Walmart for two years, said in a statement. “When the richest family in America isn’t paying its fair share, it’s no wonder that our children’s schools, our roads and basic public programs are getting cut left and right.”


Americans for Tax Fairness (AFT), which put out the report, breaks down the $7.8 billion:

On food stamps, also known as SNAP, Walmart benefits in an additional way. It receives 18 percent of the SNAP market; that means its sales from food stamp recipients bring the company an additional $13.5 billion.

“Polls show that Americans want a tax system that requires large corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share,” the report concludes. “This report shows that our current system is anything but fair – rather it provides special treatment to America’s biggest corporations and richest families leaving individual taxpayers and small businesses to pick up the tab.”


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Most Shocking for Last? Greenwald Teases NSA Spying "Finale"

Journalist Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly hinted that the largest—and potentially most shocking—revelations about NSA surveillance have yet to come.

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And in an interview with The Sunday Times published over the weekend, the award-winning journalist spoke about a coming “finale” that would expose specific individuals who have been targeted by the powerful spy agency.

According to the Times‘ Toby Harnden, Greenwald explained that the ultimate legacy of his NSA reporting—and the decision to leak a trove of secret NSA documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden— would be “shaped in large part” by this “finishing piece” still to come.

Greenwald said:

Greenwald told Harnden that the story to answer some of these questions will be published at his new website, The Intercerpt, later this year.

As Greenwald told GQ magazine during an in-depth interview earlier this year: “As with a fireworks show, you want to save your best for last. There’s a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I’m saving that.”


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Government questions fashion giants in forced labour enquiry

The UK’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has
written to leading companies in sectors including fashion, retail and
information technology, seeking answers in relation to its inquiry into
forced labour of Uyghur in the Xinjiang region of China.

Those companies are Adidas, Amazon, Boohoo Group, Gap, H&M Group, Ikea,
Marks & Spencer, Nike, Puma, Stella McCartney, The North Face, Victoria’s
Secret, Zara, TikTok, and The Walt Disney Company.

The letters include questions concerning supply-chain transparency and
request evidence of compliance with labour, procurement and anti-slavery

The committee’s request for information includes an invitation to give
evidence at the BEIS Committee’s public hearing on Thursday 5 November.
Government minister Paul Scully
will also be giving
evidence at the session.

Nusrat Ghani, MP and lead BEIS committee member for the Forced labour in
UK value chains inquiry, said: “The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s
‘Uyghur’s for Sale’ report names 82 foreign and Chinese companies directly
or indirectly benefiting from the exploitation of Uyghur workers in
Xinjiang. The companies listed in the Australian Strategic Policy
Institute’s report span industries including the fashion, retail and
information technology sectors.

“On the BEIS Committee, we are determined to ask prominent businesses
operating in Britain in these sectors what they are doing to ensure their
profits are not on the back of forced labour in China. These businesses are
trusted by many British consumers and I hope they will repay this faith by
coming forward to answer these questions and also take up the opportunity
to give evidence to the Business Committee in public.

“There have been a series of accounts of products being sold in the UK
which can be traced back to forced labour at camps in China. On the BEIS
Committee, we want to get a clearer sense of the extent of this problem,
how seriously businesses ask questions of their own supply and
value-chains, and to also examine the steps both Government and business
could take to ensure that businesses and consumers in the UK do not
perpetuate the forced labour of Uyghur.”

Photo credit: Alex Andrews, Pexels

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Demanding 'Just and Sustainable' Economy For All, Thousands March on Congress

In an expression of a “new populist” energy, thousands of demonstrators shut down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC on Monday as they demanded a livable wage and an end to the corporate domination of the national economy and politics.

“We are here to fight for a new economy that is just and sustainable, that serves all of us—not just a few.”

Under the banner “Battle for the Capitol,” marchers carried puppets of corporate lobbyists swarming a 10-foot high replica of the Capitol Building as they blasted rising inequality in America and the outsized influence of big money during elections and in the halls of Congress.

The protesters chanted: “Whose streets? Our streets!”

“This is what the New Populist Movement looks like,” tweeted James Mumm of the group National People’s Action, which along with the Restaraunt Opportunities Center and the National Domestic Workers Association, organized the protest.

“We have an unbelievable inequality crisis among communities of color and minimum wage workers,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director with NPA, told Common Dreams.

“While our families are suffering from low wages, lack of services and good infrastructure, corporations and the one percent are doing better and better every year,” she continued.

Tweets about “#risingvoices OR #battle4thecapitol”

Ryan Murray said that this week Congress is expected to extend tax cuts to corporations worth tens of billions of dollars. “These are straight up corporate giveaways to [General Electric] and others who use the tax code to get out of paying their fair share,” she said, noting that Republicans are planning to put forth a proposal to make these giveaways permanent.


“We know we’re dealing with some highly profitable corporations that could easily afford to pay their workers more,” added Toby Chow, a community organizer with IIRON in Chicago, who traveled to Washington D.C. for the protest. “We also know that [in cities like Chicago] it is not possible to survive on the minimum wage.”

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“Really it comes down to alternatives,” Chow continued. “Further fill the coffers of corporations or give hardworking people a chance to survive with dignity. We are here to fight for a new economy that is just and sustainable, that serves all of us—not just a few.”

Groups such as NPA and Fight for 15 are calling for the minimum wage to be increased to at least fifteen dollars an hour. According to Ryan Murray, the NPA is “supportive” of President Obama’s initiative to raise the wage to $10.10, though they said it is “not where we need to be.”

The Senate is expected to vote on the $10.10 minimum wage increase on Wednesday.

The protest comes on the heels of the release of the latest AFL-CIO ‘Executive Paywatch’ report, which found that the average U.S. CEO was paid $11.7 million, or 331 times that of the average worker—a ratio that the report called “unconscionable.”


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