For the past 24 hours, the Walmart subreddit has been flooded with pro-union memes in response to the company allegedly firing a pro-union employee who posted what they said was an internal policy memo to the r/Walmart subreddit.
The leaked document is titled "Great Workplace," which is Newspeak for new compensation guidelines that gut hourly compensation rates while increasing the workload of individual positions. Under the pretense of making Walmart management more responsive to customers and staff, the Great Workplace program cuts the number of management positions, increases the number of employees each manager is responsible for, and expands the "responsibility" of each worker. In other words, fewer employees are expected to do more work across multiple departments and roles that would have once been beyond their traditional purview.
u/bdonvr, who leaked the document, posted a thread explaining that they believed the subreddit was under surveillance by Walmart corporate ("HO"), and said that they were fired for leaking the document. Motherboard has been unable to independently confirm the facts in u/bdonvrs post, and Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the Great Workplace program is real, and its been hugely controversial.
In response to u/bdonvrs post, the subreddit has been taken over by a wide variety of posts about unions. One is a historical union poster that reminds workers “the boss needs you, you don’t need him!” then adds at the bottom “labour is entitled to all it creates.”
Here are some other memes that were posted:
Walmart’s hostility to unions is almost unmatched in the private sector and goes back decades. In the 1970s, the lawyer that Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, relied on to kill nascent organizing efforts said unions were "nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off the productive labor of people who work for a living!" When the Teamsters tried to represent Wal-Mart distribution centers in Arkansas, Walton was recalled as killing the threat by saying "if the union got in, the warehouse would be closed ... people could vote any way they wanted, but hed close her right up.”
Fast forward today and Walmart is still notoriously unfriendly to organized labor and its workers, and even more free to do so under Trump’s National Labor Relations Board. From 2000 to 2018, one study found that Walmart paid out $1.4 billion in settlements for wage theft due to forcing employees to work off the clock or cheating them out of legally required overtime and other compensation. Walmart has also been under fire for paying its workers so little that in 2013 it cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. At the same time, Walmart cashes in on food stamps being used at its stores; in 2012, it disclosed it received $14 billion in food stamp spending.
Under the Trump administration, Walmart has been more or less given free reign to expand its union busting and wage theft but was confronted early last month when Bernie Sanders appeared at the retail giants annual shareholders meeting. There he introduced an employee proposal to put workers on the companys board and renewed his call for a raise in Walmarts minimum wage.
"Despite the incredible wealth of its owner, Walmart pays many of its employees starvation wages, wages that are so low that many of these employees are forced to rely on government programs like food stamps, Medicaid and public housing in order to survive," Sanders said. "Frankly, the American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country.”