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Did Wal-Mart Settle Pay Lawsuits to Help Block Pro-Union Law?

Business continues to gear up to deal with the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act which would allow unions to organize via open check-off cards rather than secret ballot elections.

Pro-business management groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various conservative think tanks, public relations firms and editorial page editors have been beating the drum to oppose the law which has a good chance of passing Congress after Republicans took a drubbing in November's election.

Management likes secret ballots because they make it easier for them to focus propaganda campaigns against union organizing. They claim that the voucher sign-off approach will allow union thugs to intimidate workers. I read this on the editorial page of a newspaper that I know requires new employees to sign a document that they understand that the newspaper's "corporate philosophy" is to be "union free." That's not intimidation?

Now comes Wal-Mart resolving 63 lawsuits involving $640 million. The suits were filed by employees who claimed that the massive retailer violated various state and other laws by denying them lunch breaks or underpaying them.

One reason that Wal-Mart is anxious to sweep the long-standing lawsuits under the rug? It could be that the Arkansas-based firm does not want to give any ammunition to proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act as they muster support. Notoriously anti-union, Wal-Mart seems willing to go to great lengths to block any initiative that makes union organizing easier.

To be sure, Wal-Mart's PR machine claims that the lawsuits represent the bad, old Wal-Mart of years ago. "Many of these lawsuits were filed years ago and are not representative of the company we are today," one company flak said.

Maybe, but is there a Santa Claus and an Easter Bunny? Let me know.

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