THE AFL-CIO American trade union confederation has congratulated Human Rights Watch for its May Day report exposing the ‘vicious anti-union’ activities of retailing giant Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, owns Azda supermarkets in Britain.
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney stated: ‘The Human Rights Watch Report released today exposes in horrific detail Wal-Mart’s dogged and systematic exploitation of weak US labor laws and clearly illustrates why the law must be changed to protect workers’ freedom to form unions.
‘The 209-page report, Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of U.S. Workers’ Right to Freedom of Association, is the first comprehensive documentation of the tactics used to implement Wal-Mart’s corporate strategy to shut down workers’ efforts to form unions in their stores.
‘It recommends that the Senate pass the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it more difficult for employers like Wal-Mart to roll roughshod over workers’ rights.
‘When companies like Wal-Mart violate workers’ rights and keep workers from improving their lives through unions, they are hurting their entire communities.
‘After all, the best anti-poverty device in our nation is a union card. Workers with a union make 30 per cent more than those who don’t have one, and are much more likely to have health care and pensions.
‘According to the report, the retail giant stands out for the sheer magnitude and aggressiveness of its anti-union apparatus and tactics.
‘Wal-Mart exploits our nation’s weak labor laws to create an environment that is poisonous to workers’ organizing efforts.
‘For example, workers start their first day on the job with an anti-union themed orientation for each new employee.
‘Wal-Mart continues this aggressive campaign throughout workers’ tenures, bombarding them with vicious anti-union propaganda in meetings, letters and videos.
‘Wal-Mart has also broken US labor law, and has never received more than “a slap on the wrist,” according to the report.
‘The government found that Wal-Mart eavesdropped and spied on workers, threatened workers with benefit loss if they organize, ordered police to remove union representatives from parking lots, confiscated union literature, and discriminated against union supporters.
‘Wal-Mart clearly doesn’t want to have to hear its own workers’ voices and does not want to have to engage in collective bargaining with them.
‘Our nation needs the Employee Free Choice Act to level the playing field and give workers a fair shot to bargain with Wal-Mart for a better life.’
Meanwhile, millions of American workers and their families are completely vulnerable because of lack of health care cover.
The UAW car workers’ union issued a statement on 4 May revealing that the appalling situation is to be further exacerbated in September, when a raft of health cover for vulnerable children is set to be removed.
It said: ‘Thousands of UAW members joined the March of Dimes in the annual WalkAmerica in Battle Creek, Bay City, Detroit, Muskegon and other Michigan communities last weekend.
‘WalkAmerica continues from Algonac to Escanaba until May 12.
‘In 2006 Michigan walkers raised more than $3.4 million to assist March of Dimes in its mission to prevent premature births, and to help families whose children are in neonatal intensive care units.
‘The voluntary, private funds raised by March of Dimes are a critical piece of the overall effort to raise healthy children in Michigan and throughout the United States – but only a piece.
‘Caring for America’s children is a public responsibility. Every mother-to-be and baby in the United States must have the health care they need, and the health insurance to provide for that health care.
‘Fortunately, there is already a public program to provide health insurance to children in need.
‘It’s called the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and it provides federal money – matched by the states – so children can receive health care even when their parents can’t afford it.
‘Funding for this critical program will expire Sept. 30. March of Dimes is working to renew and expand the federal children’s health insurance program, and the UAW fully supports that goal.
‘The federal program insures more than 6 million children. Unfortunately, 9 million children remain uninsured.
‘Nearly 2 million – almost 20 per cent – are eligible for the children’s health insurance program, but are not receiving benefits because of funding constraints or administrative barriers.
‘The need is great throughout the country and especially in Michigan.
‘Michigan has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the nation, at 7.9 deaths per 1,000 live births.
‘Nationally 6.9 out of every 1,000 children never live to see their first birthdays.
‘These numbers are way too high and could be lower if all expectant mothers, regardless of income, had access to high-quality health care during pregnancy and after childbirth.
‘Congress should provide sufficient funding so all states can enroll all children who are eligible for the federal program.
‘In addition, states should be given the option to enroll pregnant women who meet the program’s income guidelines.
‘March of Dimes also supports the enrollment of children with special medical needs but limited private insurance coverage.
‘By combining private and public coverage, the two plans can work together to provide comprehensive health benefits and allow states to stretch their federal dollars to reach even more uninsured children.
‘The UAW has long advocated a comprehensive, single-payer universal health insurance program that would cover every man, woman and child in the United States.
‘Until we achieve this overall goal, we must look for ways to expand health care coverage wherever possible.
‘According to the latest data from the Census, the number of Americans with no health insurance stands at 45 million – more than 15 per cent of the US population.
‘But the number of uninsured children has actually decreased by 2 million nationwide since SCHIP was introduced in 1997, even as the number of uninsured adults has continued to grow.
‘The federal children’s health insurance program is working. It’s an effective, practical partnership between the federal government and the states, giving America’s children a chance for a healthier future.
‘Congress should renew and expand this successful program.’