If the Teamsters Union has its way, Wal-Mart distribution centers nationwide will soon be sporting the union label. In an effort to pitch thousands of pickers, forklift drivers, dock workers and other Wal-Mart DC workers on the advantages of unionization, the Teamsters' Warehouse Division has launched a Web site specifically directed at recruiting those workers nationwide.
Not surprisingly, the message focuses on pay. The new Web site (walmartworkersunite.org) says, "As the world's most modern and efficient distribution and retail system, Wal-Mart should be held to the highest labor standards for treatment of its employees. Based on Wal-Mart's profitability, the company should be expected to set the gold standard in terms of wages and benefits."
Statements from Teamsters Warehouse Division leaders are more pointed, driving home the message that the Wal-Mart workers' stellar performance should entitle them to stellar pay. "The Teamsters Union respects that the Wal-Mart distribution center employees do a great job in getting the product to the stores," says John A. Williams, director of the Teamsters Warehouse Division, which already represents more than 200,000 DC employees and drivers across the country. "Our union negotiates industry-leading contracts providing our members with family wages and benefits. Wal-Mart employees, working for the largest company in the United States, should not earn less in wages and benefits than what Teamster members enjoy working under their union contracts."
But it appears that in at least some locations, Wal-Mart's DC workers have no complaints about wages. A 2002 study of a DC in Baker County, Fla., showed that jobs started at $11.25 an hour, 34 percent higher than the county's average private-sector wage. Last year, a study of Wal-Mart's DC in St. James, Mo., showed that large manufacturers in the area lost an average of 5 percent of their workers after the center opened with its starting wage of $11.25 an hour.