Just Not That Kind of Place: Walmart Uses Entire Training Video To Bad-Mouth Unions

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Photo by Reed Saxon/AP

Today's victory for workers in L.A., which passed a $15 minimum wage, is one more sign the nation's biggest, sleaziest retailer may land on the wrong side of history. When Walmart caved to worker pressure last year and agreed to give its "associates" paltry wage increases - paltry enough many of them still must rely on food stamps and other government assistance to survive - some observers thought the greedy behemoth might be changing, albeit glacially, its exploitative ways. Not. In what one employee called "a new low even for Walmart," the company last month abruptly closed five stores and laid off over 2,000 workers, citing murky and evidently nationwide "ongoing plumbing issues that will require extensive repairs" - though they've offered no evidence of those alleged issues nor requested any of the requisite building permits to resolve them. Workers cried foul retaliation, noting that one of the shuttered stores is California's Pico Rivera, which sparked workers' protests as the first store to go on strike in 2012 and the first to hold a sit-down strike. Never mind bad plumbing, activists charge: The company is "silencing workers just like they’ve always done,” which is why they filed a complaint this week with the National Labor Relations Board.

But Walmart, unfazed, keeps marching heedlessly into the past in its usual tone-deaf fashion. Having suddenly laid off over 2,000 people with a few hours notice for somewhere between six months and forever - it's not saying - it followed up by issuing a set of handy tips to its associates "to provide them information that will help answer their questions, as well as provide guidance that would help through any transition." Their advice: Drink less coffee, nightmares are common so don't sweat it, and don't block your memories of the God-awful job you just inexplicably lost, thus casting you into an even darker chasm of economic uncertainty.

Now, for wide-eyed hopefuls seeking to join Walmart's beloved family, it is offering a newly leaked training video that uses nine of its 10 minutes to praise its "pro-associate" open-door policies" where everyone is "in control of (his/her) own career" and to obsessively blast evil money-grubbing unions as "multi-million dollar businesses that make their money by convincing people like you and me to give them part of our paychecks. So you have to wonder, are they really just interested in the welfare of Walmart associates, or is there something more at stake?” Because Walmart, duh, is only interested in advancing the "career" of its desperately-scrambling-for-food-stamp-survival employees and is certainly not a multi-million dollar business with, you know, its own agenda. Astonishingly, the video fails to mention even once the actual purpose of unions. Instead, it simply and earnestly explains, "Our company prefers to have open and direct communication with our associates - we don’t think a labor union is necessary here. And because our associates have said time after time that they don’t want a union, we usually don’t spend a lot of time talking about them." Except, actually, now, in this skewered, lying, fear-mongering video.

With Walmart's annual shareholder meeting coming up next week, workers are reportedly preparing a resolution to demand less obscene executive compensation and more accountability, and analysts are increasingly voicing criticism of the company's dysfunctional "dinosaur culture." Still, despite the unrest, bad P.R. and sinking sales, CEO Doug McMillon insists in a shareholder statement that, "Walmart has a bright future." He cites the company's  “real and meaningful purpose - to save people money so they can live better." And to bust unions, at any cost.


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