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USAToday reports this morning about the continued battering that Wal-Mart's reputation seems to be taking at the hands of organized labor, which argues that the company "discriminates against women, underpays workers and uses illegal tactics to kill unionization efforts." The paper writes, "Never before has the retail empire, founded in 1962, come under such blistering attack," with the company currently facing more than 40 lawsuits on a variety of labor-related issues.

Wal-Mart has 1.3 million employees worldwide, making it the planet's largest single private employer, and it plans to almost double that count over the next five years. It argues that company employees don’t want or need unionization because they are paid competitively and treated well.

As the paper points out, this is about more than Wal-Mart. It is about organized labor remaining relevant in a political and cultural sense, an argument that is hard to make when a company the size of Wal-Mart has not been organized.
KC's View:
It must be difficult for retailers that are organized to know how to root on this one. On the one hand, they don’t want organized labor to become any more powerful, but they understand that if Wal-Mart is unionized, it instantly has to make internal changes that would make it easier to compete with.

Tough call.

Tell you one thing. We were shocked to learn from the USAToday article that just 75 percent of employees are eligible for health care coverage, with the rest being in "waiting periods" of six months for full time employees and two years for part-timers, and that the company picks up just two-thirds of the cost.

For the world's biggest company, that just seems inadequate.

However, to be fair, the article seems to quote just as many employees who love working for Wal-Mart and think the benefits are just fine as it does disgruntled former employees. Ultimately, this all comes down to a power struggle…and it is hard to know what the result will be.