Reportedly, Wal-Mart store managers and department heads were forced to attend mandatory meetings where they were warned that a vote for Obama meant a vote for unionization. A vote for unionization, of course, was a vote for increased labor costs and fewer jobs. Vote for the democrats and risk losing your job? It seems like an unspoken mathematical deduction that Wal-Mart wanted its managers to make.
While Wal-Mart has denied they are attempting to tell their employees how to vote, it’s easy to see how the average Wal-Mart employee who was corralled into the involuntary political rally might have felt a little bit pressured. Certainly any undecided Wal-Mart voter now has a strong compelling reason to land on the McCain side of the fence. With all other things being equal, “because my employer says so” is a pretty strong influence.
The issue at stake is the Employee Free Choice Act, which is being labeled as the root of all retail industry evil by many retailers big and small. Just because you make it easier for employees to unionize, though, doesn’t automatically mean that they will want to. Nowhere in American labor history can I find an example of unions successfully organizing in a retail organization where employee satisfaction and company loyalty were high. Since Wal-Mart currently has more than 75 class action lawsuits in 41 states filed against it relating to wage and employee practice issues, though, it is obvious why giving unions easier access to its employees would be a cause for concern.
Wal-Mart’s senior officers are not the only ones setting up their tents in the Republican camp this election year. Public opinion pollster Zogby International has concluded that Wal-Mart shoppers are also buying what the McCain campaign is selling. By asking people to name both their favorite presidential candidate and their favorite retail store, it was discovered that a majority of loyal Wal-Mart shoppers were also loyal Republican voters.
Political-minded consumers might want to consider as they stroll around Wal-Mart, Sears, and Kohl’s that they are most likely rubbing elbows and bumping carts with shoppers who will be voting Republican this fall. Also according to Zogby, to shop Costco, Macy’s and Target is to shop where the Democrats roam. If the new “retail politics” involves using paycheck pressure to influence votes, then perhaps politically-minded consumers will exert their own political pressure by voting with their spending dollars for the retailers who share their own political opinions.
Along with religion, sports, medicine, science and ethics, perhaps “retailing” should be added to the list of things with which politics just doesn't mix.