- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. denied a report that it tried to pressure employees to vote against Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats in the fall because the party would likely make it easier for employees to unionize.

A report in Friday’s Wall Street Journal said the nation’s largest private employer is mobilizing store managers and hourly supervisors to warn employees that an Obama administration and a Democratic Congress would mean changes in federal laws governing unions and would cost the workers wages and jobs.

The report, which cited about a dozen Wal-Mart employees in seven states, said that Wal-Mart managers were called to mandatory meetings and told that the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a pro-union bill that Democrats favor, would result in hefty union dues with nothing in return.

Wal-Mart, a Bentonville, Ark., company that has not admitted unions into any of its stores, confirmed that it has held meetings on the legislation, but that the company did not tell employees how to vote in November.

“We believe EFCA is a bad bill and we have been on record as opposing it for some time. We feel educating our associates about the bill is the right thing to do,” Wal-Mart spokesman Dave Tovar said. “If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval.”

The Wall Street Journal article quoted a Wal-Mart employee from Missouri as saying, “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.’ … I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote.”

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow employees to decide the method by which they vote on whether to unionize - instead of employers, as federal law states now - and would strengthen penalties for employers who interfere with any part of the unionization process.

The bill passed the House in the spring. But Senate Republicans, backed by a veto threat from President Bush, stopped the proposal with a filibuster.

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