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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Walmart is discouraging store employees from downloading an using a smartphone application created by worker advocacy group OUR Walmart that is designed to allow them "to chat among themselves and receive advice on workplace policies or legal rights."

According to the story, "Wal-Mart has instructed store managers to tell their employees that the app wasn’t made by the company and described it as a scheme to gather workers’ personal information," saying that it is "increasingly trying to get our associates to turn over personal information to the union by using deceptive and slick looking social media and mobile apps."

The Journal writes that "the app, called WorkIt, invites users to register by providing a name, email, telephone number and ZIP Code. Users can also s hare their job title and Wal-Mart store number, but anyone can download the app. The app doesn’t access a user’s location or smartphone contacts, and lets users opt out of photo access, said Dan Schlademan, co-director of OUR Walmart."

The advocacy group has not said how many Walmart employees have downloaded or are using the app.

As the Journal writes, "As unions struggle to maintain membership and relevancy, both employers and organizers are rushing to control the messages employees digest through social media and mobile devices. Employers are launching mobile scheduling apps and finding ways to push human-resource messages out through social media or digital advertising. Wal-Mart is in the process of rolling out a test of its own mobile app to communicate with store employees, mostly as a way to quickly give employees access to their schedules, said a person familiar with the plans."
KC's View:
Walmart has to understand that whether these virtual networks are formal or informal, employees are going to have these conversations. What Walmart has to do is have a better story, and tell it more compellingly. Telling people not to download something is the fastest way to get them to hit the "download" button.