Getting Away With It

More

853808423_b9fa131bf0.jpg

I'm pretty sure the behavior Wal-Mart is engaged in here, pressuring employees to vote for John McCain, is illegal. But the real scandal is what's unquestionably illegal. There's an awful lot companies can do perfectly legally to block union organizing drives. But some of the most effective tactics are illegal. That doesn't, however, mean that following the law is smart business strategy:

On June 30 the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Wal-Mart illegally fired an employee in Kingman, Ariz., who supported the UFCW and illegally threatened to freeze merit-pay increases if employees voted for union representation. The decision came eight years after the organizing campaign failed, and four years after the case was originally heard.

Under these circumstances, union organizers have no effective legal recourse to violations of labor law and employers have no incentive to actually follow the law. And since employees know the laws won't be enforced if broken, employers only relatively rarely need to actually break the law in order to get the correct intimidating threat. Like the mafia, a company like Wal-Mart only needs to be seen to break a few kneecaps and get away with it for there to be an adequate intimidation effect to de facto deny a vast workforce its rights.

Photo by Flickr user wetwebwork used under a Creative Commons license

Jump to comments
Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon About the Toys in Your Cereal Box

The story of an action figure and his reluctant sidekick, who trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In