UFCW To Walmart: We Hate You – Join Us

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

That’s what the UFCW thinks of Walmart, according to Thomas P. McNutt, president of Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

But of course the UFCW Local 400 has something to lose when it comes to having new jobs in the area—it represents “employees of area Giant, Safeway and Shoppers Food Warehouse stores.” Rather than asking the Walmart employees to join the UFCW family the union attacks and belittles them.

McNutt himself spells it out in a blog post on the UFCW 400 blog:

“For we are family,” he said. “One big family. Just like family, we’ve got to have each other’s backs. We’ve got to treat an attack on one like it’s an attack on all. And we’ve got to always put our family first.”

This “Family First” policy consists of pitting certain employees against other   employees. Walmart is expanding its’ company stores across new areas in Washington, D.C. and other major cities, and the UFCW is opposed to these new jobs at a time where unemployment is all the way up to 9.5% in D.C. Local UFCW chapters have launched campaigns aimed at stopping the consumer giant from establishing stores, with corresponding job opportunities, in new areas.

So what exactly is UFCW claiming Walmart will do?

One of the most prevalent claims against Walmart, the nations largest private employer, is that they achieve their low prices by paying their employees next to nothing. Leading the charge is the “Respect D.C.” project, co-sponsored by the UFCW. One tweet from the @RespectDC Twitter page even went as far as saying Walmart provided “slave wage jobs”:

Walmart jobs do not provide decent, livable wages or health care & are basically slave wage jobs that will hurt local small biz

UFCW does not explain why people line up for these jobs by the thousands.  Maybe is because UFCW claims are demonstrably false, in other words lies. The “Respect D.C.”website has a list of demands (PDF link) that “WalMart will pay every employee in its DC stores the DC Living Wage rate or higher,” which is currently $12.50 per hour.

If the D.C. living wage is currently $12.50 per hour, what exactly is Walmart paying their employees? Apparently just $0.01 less:

At its stores in Washington area suburbs, Wal-Mart pays an average of $12.49 an hour. Although Restivo would not say what wages would be at its District stores, he said the rates would be above that of most union jobs offered by competing grocers and that most jobs would be full-time positions.

Quite far from “slave wage jobs”, employees not in D.C. are actually paid far closer to the “DC Living wages” Respect D.C. is demanding.

Another well-worn knock on Walmart and other large retailers is that they hurt struggling small businesses. According to Andy Shallal, a hard-left anti-war restaurant owner, Walmart is “a big-box bully that depresses wages and crushes small competitors”, and that WalMart’s “track record of destroying local businesses speaks louder than any academic research”.

But what does that academic research actually say? A Competitive Enterprise Institute study (PDF link) found that:

DRCs (discount retail chains) benefitted the communities they entered by increasing wages and employment, and strengthening other businesses that did not compete directly with the new DRC… the presence of DRCs “may create alternative opportunities for businesses that are unable to compete with large discount retail chains,” and “new businesses emerge that provide either services or products that complement the DRC’s offerings.” … Rather than shutting down retail activity, the presence of DRCs actually stimulates dynamic local retail growth.

Clearly the economic case against Walmart is falling apart, so what’s left? Maybe a half-baked assertion that Walmart turns children into criminals? Funny enough, that’s exactly the claim Washington D.C.’s Ward 4 ANC Commissioner Brenda Speaks made in a recent rally against Walmart:

You’re putting kids in jeopardy of getting a record from shoplifting in this Walmart store. For the first time, some kids will have a record- they will start a record- because kids are kids and they will go in those stores and pick up things, and security is going to grab them, and that’s crime.

Mrs. Speaks seems to believe here that Walmart stores specifically will incite children (through no fault of their own) to begin lives of crime. Something about the goods and services Walmart would uniquely provide causes children to inevitably shoplift. (Perhaps the area Giant, Safeway and Shoppers Food Warehouse stores don’t have goods tempting enough to steal?) Sometimes the fiction people believe is truth is the strangest fiction of all.

So what does that leave us with?

The UFCW “Family First” model is fundamentally at odds with employees, consumers, and ultimately, the facts. If their goal is to increase benefits for all workers, they must change their model to account for political realities that may be undermining their arguments.

If the companies their members represent are threatened by competition by Walmart, they should find ways to follow the suggestions put forward by the CEI study, and find ways to provide complimentary services or products.

It is not Walmart that union members should be afraid of. Rather, it is the inability of their unions to adapt to change they should be worried about.

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