What Does Walmart Have Against Unions Anyway?

job interview Mega-retailer Walmart, which has long opposed unionization of its workforce, is more likely to open new stores in states that support a worker's right not to join a union than in states with pro-union statutes, when the states neighbor each other, new research has found.

In reviewing data from 1998 to 2005, researchers from Columbia Business School in Manhattan discovered that when Walmart proposed to open 102 new stores within 25 miles of borders along right-to-work and pro-union states, it was more likely to site the new stores in states with right-to-work statutes.

Such laws, adopted by 22 U.S. states, prohibit unions and employers from entering agreements that make union membership a condition of employment.

The findings suggest that the Bentonville, Ark.-based company prefers jurisdictions in states with right-to-work rules and will fight harder to open stores there, even when faced with protests from those opposed to the building of the new stores, according to professor and study co-author Paul Ingram.

By situating stores in a right-to-work jurisdiction within a certain distance of a pro-union state, Walmart essentially taps into the same market, he says.

A Business Trend?

In doing so, Walmart is engaging in what is called regulatory arbitrage, a strategy by firms to affect regulatory policies by deciding to open new stores, offices or plants in other states where labor and tax laws better favor business.

The fallout for neighboring states that don't land a new Walmart store includes losses in sales tax revenue and jobs. The bigger implication, Ingram says, is that other employers may follow Walmart's lead and opt to locate their businesses in the right-to-work state instead of the pro-union one.

"Any one Walmart is marginal," he says. But the aggregation of employers starting up or expanding operations in right-to-work states, away from states favorable to unions, "could add up to substantially fewer jobs and less tax revenue in non-right-to-work states."

The research further showed that Walmart wasn't alone in preferring to build in right-to-work states. "Other businesses have that same preference," Ingram says. The trend was also seen among some manufacturers, including, notably, aircraft-maker Boeing, which has roots in union-friendly Washington state.

In an emailed response, Walmart spokesman Steven Restivo didn't count a union-friendly climate as a factor. "With more than 4,000 stores spread across all 50 states, our real estate selection process is pretty simple: We seek to open stores where customers need access to quality jobs and more affordable grocery options."

Balancing Policy and Shareholders' Interests

In recent years, the company has begun a push toward opening more stores in urban areas, where unionization is more common. But if Walmart is going to be successful in that effort, "it is going to have to change its aggressive stance towards associates who organize and a progressive public who supports them in order to be successful," says Jennifer Stapleton, assistant director of Making Change at Walmart, a campaign of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

"It is in the interests of shareholders that the company keep growing," Stapleton says. "However, what we see here is that it is particularly hard for Walmart in communities where public officials and citizens take the concerns of workers seriously."

Still, Ingram says, whether a state has a right-to-work statute is by itself probably a minor issue to Walmart, because the company's employees aren't unionized.

"What matters more are a host of other policies -- regulations for doing business, taxes, other labor laws," he says, "that tend to be more pro-business in right-to-work states."

Though, as suggested, Walmart may not be making business decisions solely on the basis of avoiding union organizing efforts, part of the retailer's business model is to "make sure there are no unions" within the company, says Randolph McLaughlin, professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y.

"Walmart has had a history of opposition to unions," McLaughlin says. "And the best way to avoid a union is to go into states where it's more difficult to unionize."

Next: Apple's iPod: The Case for the Innovation Economy [Huffington Post Business]

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Sky Patty

At least Walmart is hiring.

May 05 2013 at 2:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sky Patty

look what happen to Hostess , this was big unization. Guess what all of them are layed off now.

May 05 2013 at 2:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If unions are so bad for the worker, then why does Walmart care if the workers form a union? Good stuff's not cheap and cheap stuff's not good. Americans are already working 2 and 3 part time jobs just to make ends meet. Henry Ford once said "if I don't pay my workers a decent wage they won't be able to buy a Ford car to get to work".

October 31 2012 at 12:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

can I join the BullUnion? Go to www.BullUnion.com on March 1st, 2012 and register. It is that simple. They have created a registration process that can rapidly organize corporate employees of WalMart and even more companies such as FedEx in the months to come.

By registerring with the BullUnion, you are going to receive what is called an EXR number. This number is what you will need to enter as validation when you cast your vote within 9 months to help the merge process into the Union.

As for the expected monthly dues cost...I can tell you that an employee at Albertson's grocery that is in the UFCW states she pays about $11 a month. That's unbelieveably cheap...and so is the $3 per month the BullUnion charges for the organizing process. The BullUnion.com allows members the option to pay in advance and save up to 25%. Example...for 3 months paid in advance the cost is $8 instead of $9...for 6 months the cost is $15 instead of $18...and for a year in advance the cost is only $27 instead of $36, which is where members can save the 25%.

Although membership would need to reach a total of not less than 55% of total WalMart union eligible employees...BullUnion cannot guarantee union merge until the vote by employees approves the merger through the BullUnion organizing process. Note: This process has been developed for the purpose of making every attempt to protect members identities, and move to a vote as quickly as possible.

January 27 2012 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The problem is that those who shop at Walmart are extremely happy about the price being low. They do not THINK WHY when so much has happened against Walmart. Go check that out folks! And if you still like them especially with NO union, why not work there and see or send your kids there to work part time. Your eyes will be open very quickly. They tell employees...you need to stock this shelf and clean up the floor before you leave KNOWING that employee has about half hour left of the 8 hour work day. They ask that they clock out but finish what they are told to do. They lock employees in the stores and make them work whent he store is closed to the public. They take deductions off paychecks for health but when you go to the doctor you pay full fees coz the deductible is so high. In addition, they also deduct for donations especially to the employee emergency fund which is used for compensation when workman's comp. or other forms of support could be provided by choice. I rarely step into a Walmart becuase I KNOW folks who have left the place and are doing way better elsewhere. Wen I did step in to return a useless gift I received, I had to use it within the store and liked a lot of things. BUT they were ALL made in China FOR Walmart by Walmart employees in Walmart swart shops in China. Thes employees are forced to live in Walmart provided housing (awful holes in the wall with not even fans). IF they rent elsewhere the rent is still deducted in their paycheck by Walmart, but not the utilities. which they pay when they live in walmart housing. So who benefits? Walmart again! Forcing employees to live in Walmart owned rat holes. If despite reading the above you have no issue with Walmart, you have that right to your beliefs but please make them BASED ON and AFTER FINDING OUT FACTS BEHIND WHERE Walmart stocked goods comes from and WHY it is cheaper at Walmart. Thanks in advance.

January 11 2012 at 9:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The WalMart story has been around for a long time, in fact there is even a documentary on it. But what HAS happened thus far to prevent WalMart's discrimination, sweat shop attitude, illegal unpaid overtime work and taking over most of the USA and many parts of the world? In Germany, they have no choice but to have a union. Perhaps the revenues fromt hose stores need to be compared to the sweat shops they run in the USA. The US economy is being run dry by Walmart with ALL products made in China sold lower than other stores can afford to while employees are being robeed paycheck by paycheck with so called medical coverage deductions etc. Besides this Christmas, consumers were encouraged to shop at mom and pop stores with credit card companies providing incentives but who went there when WalMart was selling at lower marked downs? Theya re a monopoly and the politicians are enjoying contributions for their campaigns and just looking the other way while smaller shops, grocery stores (yeah, Walmart sells groceries but wants the right now to sell fresh set produce also. Take the example of Edison, NJ. Walmart faced opposition but won with subsidiaries given by the municipality to build roads to their store and there is NO give back to the community. Now along with their Sam's Club alongside, they wish to expand the Walmart stoire to sell fresh produce. What will happen to the farmers' markets, the vegetable vendors and small shops in Edison? Meanwhile, everyone looks the other way! Well, with more shops closing because of walmart, we THINK we are progressing? Boycott China and see how quickly Walmart crumbles. Disgusted and perhaps Romney can address this!

January 11 2012 at 9:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With no union to help the workers, does wal-mart have their employees work less than 40 hours a week? .In doing this,do they not have to offer any benefits to a majority of their employees?. Do these people have to rely on goverment programs to support their families?.. Is Wal-mart is helping the goverment, in shoving down our throats their programs, so the goverment can have more control over the American people? . With this said, I feel Unions have their place..to help protect people that need help protecting themself from Big Corporations and Big Goverment.

June 20 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The end of unions finally.

June 20 2011 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Unions suck!! People only want them so they can be lazy workers and can't get fired as easily. That is why tons of companies are getting rid of them.

June 20 2011 at 1:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joe Wentz

I live in a "right to work" state and like it. Years ago I came from a very stingent union state and found the major problem(s) were twofold. 1. Prices went up to pay for the additional benifits. 2. There were (and are) a certain element of people that were less ambitious, who would hide behind the union in various ways , so as not to work, not to work as hard, and had no ambition to stand on their own. Good for Walmart!

June 20 2011 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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