As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sam's Club Conservatism

Tim Pawlenty, governor of Minnesota, is pushing this idea that government should just run like Sam's Club - using sweatshop labor and locking employees inside the store offering services at low cost and value. Because that's exactly how government works. ("Use the discount highway and bridge!")

But there is something to this "Sam's Club conservatism" - in fact, to the corporate parent it means getting everyone who works at Sam's Club to vote for conservatives out of fear of losing their job:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise [...]

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said.

I'm sure this won't trickle down to the rank and file employees, nor will it be framed as "vote Republican or your job is gone."

Big business is TERRIFIED by the prospect of a President Obama signing the Employee Free Choice Act. The combination of making it harder for management to harass and intimidate workers who want to bargain, and aggressive unions like SEIU ready to organize means that union membership will finally start increasing again after decades of decline (it actually went up slightly this year). The labor movement is the greatest anti-poverty program in American history, but to the corporate profiteers, it means one less yacht in the harbor. Wal-Mart is among the groups who have put up hundreds of millions of dollars to stop the EFCA and demonize unions. Some of the ads are already up and running, using euphemistic shell group names like "the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace." To economic royalist conservatives it's as important to stop this dead as it was to stop universal health care in the 1990s.

Wal-Mart is skating right on the edge of the legal line with this.

Federal election rules permit companies to advocate for specific political candidates to its executives, stockholders and salaried managers, but not to hourly employees. While store managers are on salary, department supervisors are hourly workers.

However, employers have fairly broad leeway to disseminate information about candidates' voting records and positions on issues, according to Jan Baran, a Washington attorney and expert on election law.

And check out how the corporations who have paid practically no net taxes the entire Bush era are claiming themselves to be the "underdogs" against big bad Labor and its 8% of the private-sector workforce.

Business groups say they're the underdogs since they will be outspent by unions by a wide margin. Labor has pledged to spend $300 million on the election and securing passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, compared with under $100 million by business groups, according to Steven Law, chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber's strategy is to focus on the Senate, where labor needs eight more supporters of the legislation to reach the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

"This is a David-and-Goliath confrontation, but we believe we'll have enough stones in the sling to knock this out," said Mr. Law.

They really do consider themselves the oppressed elite. It's kind of like Bill O'Reilly lamenting that (even though taxes on the richest 1% are at their lowest rate in 18 years) they'll have to finance all the dirty hippies if the Democrats come to power.

You're already seeing Wal-Mart give to conservative Dems to hold off EFCA. It's one of the biggest battles we're going to face in the next year or so, and the stakes are enormous. So much so that the corporatocracy is trying to shake down their own employees for votes.

In case you want to know where John McCain is on all this, just see what he thinks about the most prosperous time for the middle class in American history:

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