Union should give up losing game plan

A union-backed protest gathers outside a Walmart in Roseville on Black Friday in 2013.
A union-backed protest gathers outside a Walmart in Roseville on Black Friday in 2013. Sacramento Bee file

In football, winning coaches run plays that work, mixing things up when needed, while losing coaches keep running the same play, even if it fails.

The same is true in politics and business, and we’ll be seeing this truth in full force on “Black Friday.” America’s retailers put their financial books in the black by running a winning play – offering and promoting great deals. As long as no one gets hurt, it’s a big win for both retailers and consumers.

But labor union leaders insist on running another play year after year on Black Friday, one that is far less successful. A group called the Organization United for Respect at Walmart – backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union – has staged protests, often under the guise of a public policy proposal that defies economic logic: a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Numerous protests are planned for the Sacramento region this year.

While protesters claim their goal is to improve the workplace, the real objective is to draw in potential new customers – in this case, workers who might join a union. This is the equivalent of offering a deeply discounted television to get buyers in the store, then trying to sell them a toaster.

There is a slightly new wrinkle to this year’s demonstrations. OUR Walmart is urging people to skip their Thanksgiving feast and “Fast for $15.” It’s a catchy slogan, but it’s doubtful it will inspire many people to pass up a drumstick.

Of course, the fasting and the wage talk are just a front in unions’ pursuit of more members by whatever means. This becomes apparent when one looks at the many California cities in which unions have advocated for a local minimum-wage ordinance, then sought an exemption for unionized workplaces. The hope seems to be that employers might welcome unions in if they were freed from a new wage mandate. Much like the OUR Walmart protests, what’s advertised is very different from what’s really being sold.

Yet labor union rolls are at historic lows. Walmart employees haven’t unionized. If this were football, fans would be calling for the coach to be fired.

Oddly enough, the UFCW actually did fire its “coaches” earlier this year, purging the leadership of OUR Walmart. But they simply went to another team, starting a rival OUR Walmart group with the backing of a coterie of social activist groups. So there will now be two teams, using the same name, trying to disrupt the Thanksgiving holiday, although it’s more likely to confuse workers.

OUR Walmart should come up with a new play and just let the rest of us enjoy the holiday.

Glenn Spencer is vice president of the Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be contacted at