Big Labor is set to have their annual Black Friday Walmart protests this week, but critics say that the protest is more about extorting big business than trying to raise the minimum wage for Walmart employees.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explained Tuesday that the Black Friday protests are about gaining more union members through minimum wage exemptions.
“In truth, the whole of the Black Friday protest, the whole of the game plan, to raise the wage to 15 dollars an hour, is so that then, when it’s raised to $15 an hour, unions get a carve out for themselves,” Furchtgott-Roth said.
“The $15 an hour minimum enables the unions to then go to individual employers with the exemption and say ‘if you allow us to organize your workplace, you don’t have to pay the $15 an hour, you can pay $11 or $12 an hour and then you will be excused from this $15 an hour minimum wage which just passed.”
Furchtgott-Roth added that “This enables unions to basically extort these large employers and get more members for themselves… This is extremely important for them because the number of union workers is declining”
Unions have been facing a steady decline in membership. In 2014, union membership accounted for just a little over 11 percent of the workforce. Unions are also desperate for money to help their underfunded pension funds.
The Labor Department announced earlier this year that 235 multi-employer-multi-employee funds are in “critical” and “endangered” status, meaning they lack the funds to pay 80 percent of their promised benefits.
Furchtgott-Roth points to California as the best example of the strategy used by these front groups to gain more members.
In California, “the unions funded ‘raise the wage,’ then turned around and said that they want an exemption for collectively bargained agreements.”
The group organizing the Black Friday protests claim to be an independent organization made up of former Walmart associates, but Glenn Spencer of the Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday that the reality is much different.
“The people who show up in front of a Walmart wearing a t-shirt or waving a sign tend not to be actual Walmart employees, and this has been revealed in some of the court filings and proceedings.”
Our Walmart, the group that has been pushing the Black Friday OUR Walmart campaign, has always been a subsidiary of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). In fact, depositions filed in Florida court show that the staff of OUR Walmart is made up of paid employes from UFCW and that only 50 actual Walmart employees took part in to the 2012 nationwide Black Friday protests.
However, this year the OUR Walmart group faced internal conflict and split into two different groups. The union felt that the Black Friday Walmart fight, which has been successful in gaining publicity, hasn’t been successful in terms of yielding new numbers. UFCW cut campaign funding for OUR Walmart by more than 50 percent.
A former employee of UFCW then split from the group and “relaunched” OUR Walmart. The new, relaunched group doesn’t have the financial backing of UFCW, but will be organizing protests throughout the country this week.
Both groups will be protesting this year, but the “relaunched” group will be leading the charge.
This year, Walmart spent $1.2 billion to raise the hourly wages of workers to $9 an hour. Next year it will spend an additional $1.5 billion to raise hourly wages to $10 per hour. Last month, Walmart suffered it’s biggest stock decline in over 25 years. They announced in October that raising workers wages would hurt their profits and lead to a six percent to 12 percent drop in earnings next year.