retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Bloomberg Businessweek has a cover story this week about how Walmart in 2012 responded to organized labor protests during Black Friday sales events with what some might call a heavy hand: "it hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they’re called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the 'home office,' as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark."

According to the story, "The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs, as well as testimony from its head of labor relations at the time. The documents were produced in discovery ahead of a National Labor Relations Board hearing into OUR Walmart’s allegations of retaliation against employees who joined protests in June 2013."

Walmart's emailed comment on the story: "We are firmly committed to the safety and security of our 2.2 million associates as well as the 260 million customers we serve each week. It’s important to remember that Walmart is the largest company in the world with 11,500 stores in 28 countries. Unfortunately, there are occasions when outside groups attempt to deliberately disrupt our business and on behalf of our customers and associates we take action accordingly.”

It is a fascinating story, and you can read it in its entirety here.
KC's View:
I cannot help but feel like this is overkill on Walmart's part, and perhaps indicative of a broader lack of faith in its people, no matter what they say. I'm also sure that Walmart is not alone in such efforts ... I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to me that the combination of technology and corporate entitlement almost certainly means a lot of big companies conduct this kind of surveillance.

Doesn't make me feel any better. Or any safer. And I think the "safety and security" argument is a little specious ... it really is about protecting the bottom line.