Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Case For Salting: Wal-Mart

What is Salting?

Salting is the act of gaining employment with the sole intent to organize a union.

As many people in the labor movement know, Unite Here! is well known for their use of salts in their organizing campaigns. While many labor unions officially oppose these tactics, they are perfect for labor organizations like Unite Here! who represent workers in the service industry, including retail, food service, and in hotels. During an open mic session at the Young Workers Summit, I proposed the following action:

Develop a well-trained force of 200-500 young workers to employ in Salting campaigns around the country. One of the biggest sectors of non-union involvement in the United States is the service industry. The 800lb gorilla in the room is that most permanent(non-student) service industry workers tend to be less educated. I should know - I was one for several years. These workers trust someone they work with who is in the trenches more than they will ever trust some Yalie organizer who was hired by an International Union right out of college having never worked a real job.

Want to know why the UFCW has been unsuccessful thus far in their attempts at organizing Wal-Mart?

It's not the toothless NLRB, the Wal-Mart corporate union-busting team, or the intimidated employees, although the aforementioned factors definitely play their part. The real reason is the strategy. UFCW has historically focused on organizing a few stores at a time. This approach allows Wal-Mart to send in their very effective union-busting team to kill the efforts. Even in Canada, which has more union-friendly laws than the US, Wal-Mart shut down the first store that won an organizing campaign.

If The Old Strategies Won't Work, What Will?

I truly believe that in order to win the war with Wal-Mart, the UFCW must change its strategy.

I propose the following action:

1. Train 80-100 workers to go to work at Wal-Mart locations spread around the country in a massive Salting campaign.
2. The Salts must work for at least a year before any type of mobilization is attempted. This is for the reasons I explained earlier in this article.
3. At the appropriate time, launch a concerted, all-out blitz. This will have to involve an army of organizers. It will also have to be coordinated with every allied community action group possible.

By spreading out the Salts geographically, it will nullify the ability of Wal-Mart's union-busting team to kill every organizing drive. If only 10% of the drives are successful, seven stores will win their campaigns. While Wal-Mart was able to close a single store in Quebec and get away with it, the likelihood that they would get away with closing 7-10 stores in the Midwest or South is unlikely.

I admit that this would be a costly campaign with no guarantee of success, but nothing in the labor movement ever is. One thing we know for sure though, the way we've been doing it isn't working.

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