Today the union-boss front group Our Walmart staged its third annual nationwide “Black Friday” protests against America’s largest retailer at more than 1500 store locations across the country.
This year, once again, only a tiny fraction of the protesters were actual Walmart employees, and among the 1.3 million Americans who work for Walmart the overwhelming majority did not participate in or otherwise support the demonstrations.
As University of Michigan-Flint economist/American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry and Employment Policies Institute Research Director Michael Saltsman explain in a joint op-ed for Investor’s Business Daily (see the first link below), Walmart w0rkers have ample reason to be skeptical about Big Labor’s “Black Friday” message that ever-intensifying class warfare is the surest path to higher living standards for them:
What is overlooked or ignored by labor unions and anti-Wal-Mart organizations is that it takes highly compensated, superstar-level managerial talent to efficiently run a retail giant like Wal-Mart.
These activists then make an even bigger mistake by assuming Wal-Mart’s top leaders are highly paid at the expense of lower wages for part-time hourly workers.
Consider: Wal-Mart employs roughly 600,000 part-time employees. If the company’s executive team were replaced by lower-paid managers who forfeited 25% of a $71 million total compensation package, the extra take-home pay for part-timers would total just under $30 — per year, that is.
Assuming a 25-hour work week for 50 weeks a year, the pay cut at the top of the company yields less than 3 cents an hour in extra pay for Wal-Mart’s part-time associates — and that’s before taxes.
Even if we assume that Wal-Mart’s executive team takes a 100% pay cut and distributes those earnings to employees — forfeiting salary, stock options, and everything else — the net benefit for the part-time workforce would be a pay bump of roughly 10 cents an hour before taxes.
Of course, the ultimate goal of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), AFL-CIO, and other Big Labor bosses who are leading the charge against Walmart is not to secure higher pay and benefits for Walmart employees, but rather to secure a nationwide forced-dues contract compelling all of the company’s front-line employees to pay union dues or fees, or be fired.
Big Labor monopoly control would almost certainly leave employees worse off, not only because they would be forced to bankroll a union whether they joined or not, but also because the company’s productivity and growth would be undermined and its ability to offer advancement opportunities for employees would diminish.
As Walmart has pointed out on its web site in a statement quoted by an NPR news story on Friday (see the second link below), roughly 75% of Walmart store managers “started as hourly associates, and they earn between $50,000 and $170,000 a year — similar to what firefighters, accountants, and even doctors make.” Last year alone, roughly 170,000 Walmart employees received promotions “to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay.”
Big Labor and its apologists do not question the accuracy of such information. Instead, union propagandists hope that millions of people who don’t know the facts will simply accept as a given the very dubious assumption that corralling Walmart employees into a union would help them financially. Ultimately, mounting public pressure could sway the company to cease resisting Big Labor efforts to unionize their employees, even if the consequences would be bad for the employees as well as the company.
Fortunately, the public education efforts of economists like Perry and “think tankers” like Saltsman are making it more difficult for Big Labor to fool people who commendably want to help retail industry employees raise their living standards, but don’t have a clear idea about how that might best be done.