Unions Make Stand Against Wal-Mart In Michigan

Discussion
May 21, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson


The Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Service Employees International and Hotel and Restaurant Employees International are joining together in Michigan to launch a publicity campaign they hope will finally get consumers to stop shopping at Wal-Mart.


The unions, most notably the UFCW, have been defeated at every turn in attempts to organize the retailer’s labor force despite claims Wal-Mart mistreats employees, pays them low wages and charges them exorbitant rates to participate in the company’s health plan.


According to the unions, Wal-Mart encourages employees to seek public assistance through programs such as Medicaid and Women, Infants and Children (WIC).


Joe Hansen, president of the UFCW told the Detroit News, “A Wal-Mart economy is about lower paychecks and no benefits, and America can’t succeed on that type of philosophy.”


Michael Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit-Mercy doesn’t think consumers will be moved by the union’s message. “People know what Wal-Mart is doing, and they don’t care. They just want the low prices,” he said.


Steven Cole, a retail analyst, takes a different view. “Wal-Mart is too big for their britches,” he said. “At some point, this backfires and the public just gets tired of a company and they don’t cut them the slack they once did.”


Moderator’s Comment: Will consumers in Michigan be receptive to the messages coming from the four unions?


Even if the unions were correct and Wal-Mart was essentially moving the costs for caring for employees over to public programs, none of us ever see a bill.
We do, however, see significant savings over other places we shop when we go through a Wal-Mart checkout.

George Anderson – Moderator

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