WASHINGTON — U.S. labor groups filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday calling for an investigation into allegations that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated election laws by warning employees to vote against Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) for president because he supports legislation that would make it easier for employees to unionize.
In conjunction, four labor groups also filed a petition with the FEC containing 60,000 signatures requesting an investigation.
A Wal-Mart spokesman denied the allegations Thursday and provided a letter sent Aug. 1 by the retailer’s chief operating officer, Bill Simon, to thousands of employees. The letter said the company did not encourage its workers to vote against Democrats, particularly Obama, when it held several training sessions across the country to outline why it opposes a bill that would allow a card check system, instead of a closed-ballot vote, to determine whether workers want to join a labor union.
“Our policies are clear and we have communicated to our associates that, if anyone representing our company gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval,” the Wal-Mart spokesman said. “We believe that, if the FEC looks into this, they will find what we’ve known all along: that we did nothing wrong.”
The dispute between Wal-Mart and the labor groups grew out of a Wall Street Journal story published Aug. 1 that quoted several unnamed Wal-Mart employees who said the company held meetings with U.S. store managers to discuss a pending bill known as the Employee Free Choice Act. At the meetings, the managers allegedly warned that, if Obama wins the presidency, he likely would push the bill through Congress. Obama is a co-sponsor of the legislation, which stalled in Congress this year.
In their complaint, the American Rights at Work, AFL-CIO, Change to Win and Wakeupwalmart.com, said: “There is reason to believe that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has made prohibited corporate expenditures by expressly advocating against Sen. Obama’s election to employees.”
Under federal election rules, according to the complaint, a company such as Wal-Mart can advocate for or against a federal candidate to a “restricted class” of employees, including executive or administrative personnel who are “paid on a salary rather than [an] hourly basis, and who have policy-making, managerial and other salaried lower-level supervisory responsibilities.”
The complaint alleged that Wal-Mart violated the law by urging hourly employees to vote against Obama.
A Wakeupwalmart.com spokeswoman said in an interview that the organization has received calls from 20 to 30 Wal-Mart employees over the past six weeks who attended the company’s meetings and said they felt that the retailer was telling them to vote against Obama and Democrats because if the legislation passes, “they could lose their jobs.”
In the letter to employees, Simon acknowledged that the company did hold “training sessions” with managers and hourly supervisors to discuss the Employee Free Choice Act, which it opposes.
“We believe that the ‘card-check bill’ is bad for business and have been on record as opposing it for some time,” wrote Simon.
He said later in the letter that Wal-Mart has given equally to Democrats and Republicans, and it “does not take sides” when it comes to politics.
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)