Wal-Mart worker group splits in two; both sides vow to continue wage fight

Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:20am EDT
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By Nathan Layne and Lisa Baertlein

CHICAGO/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Wal-Mart Stores Inc worker group that has been one of the loudest voices pushing the retailer to boost wages and improve conditions has splintered over a disagreement about funding and strategic direction, according to people on both sides of the split.

Both wings are claiming the name OUR Walmart and vow to continue their work, moves that could sow confusion among supporters.

The United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which for years has provided important funding and resources to the OUR Walmart worker group, will only financially support the wing that it believes represents the broader set of workers.

"Recently we had a group split from us," said Barbara Getz, who said she is head of the health and safety team for the OUR Walmart grouping that is sticking with UFCW.

She said the union has been "unwavering" in its support.

The other group is relaunching with the OUR Walmart name and new funding partners, said Dan Schlademan, a former UFCW employee who said he is co-director of this employee group.

"The organization is moving forward with 20-plus partners and a plan to continue its work," said Schlademan. Those partners are workers' rights organizations.

Some large labor unions have backed minimum wage retail and restaurant workers' efforts to get higher pay and better benefits from large employers such as Wal-Mart and McDonald's Corp, without the certainty of adding members from those hard-to-organize industries.   Continued...

A shopper pushes a cart in front of a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City March 24, 2015. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido