United for Respect

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Organization United for Respect at Walmart (United for Respect) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization created by the United Food and Commercial Workers union with funding from David Axelrod's consulting firm to co-opt Walmart and other retailers without having to unionize. It is also known as "OurWalmart".

According to their website, "We build power to take our fight for respect across the country and across different employers."[1]

Andrea Dehlendorf was named as Co-Executive Director of United for Respect.

United Food and Commercial Workers

In June 2011, The New York Times reported that United for Respect received "a sizable sum" from the United Food and Commercial Workers, which "has also paid hundreds of its members to go door to door to urge Wal-Mart workers to join the group." Additionally, United for Respect received funding from "a consulting firm long associated with David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political strategist."[2]

Support from Elizabeth Warren and Rosa DeLauro

Elizabeth Warren and Rosa DeLauro agitates with United for Respect

on November 30, 2019, democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she and Rosa DeLauro were pushing anti-retail legislation, in response to United for Respect's Jamie Pasqualetto's complaints about scheduling.[3]

"Retail, fast food, & other hourly workers deserve some basic fairness when it comes to scheduling shifts. That’s why my #SchedulesThatWork Act with @rosadelauro would end some of the very worst abuses that hurt workers & families. #FairWorkWeek"

Rise Up Retail

Rise Up Retail becomes United for Respect April 2019 tweet screenshot

A Vox article from Sept 28 2018 by Bryce Covert[4] explained that "[T]he Rise Up Retail campaign is a melding of the Center for Popular Democracy, which is a nonprofit that advocates for a variety of workplace issues, and OUR (Organization United for Respect) Walmart, which is now going by OUR and branching out beyond the original retail behemoth. Most of the work consists of retail workers reaching out to other retail workers to organize and mobilize them, much of it done through social media."

In April 2019, Rise Up Retail announced that they would be changing their name to United for Respect.[5]

Camping outside of Walmart

An article written by Mikhail Yakhnis titled "Labor union leader targets Walmart worker abuse" dated April 15, 2013 at the Cornell Chronicle describes the ongoing efforts by "labor advocates" to unionize:[6]

Excerpt:

"With annual revenue approaching $450 billion and a global workforce of more than 2 million, Walmart has long been a target of labor advocates not only because of its status as the world’s largest employer but also due to persisting claims of worker mistreatment.
"A greeter for Walmart, “in his 60s or 70s, had blood clots in his legs. When he asked the manager for a stool to sit on, he refused,” said Pat O’Neill, executive vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in his ILR School talk April 10. This prompted Angela Williamson, a former Walmart employee, to camp out in front of the store for three days in solidarity.
[...]
"Stories such as this have prompted the UFCW to establish two campaigns, Wake Up Walmart and Making Change at Walmart, to enact worker-centric changes at the company.
[...]
The UFCW has tried to get workers to unionize, but the Walton family, owners of Walmart, has historically been anti-union. Thus it has been difficult reaching workers who often fear retaliation from management. However, Walmart is not the only corporation to take such a strong opposing view of unions...

Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart

The 2018 book by Adam Reich and Peter Bearman titled Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart, the authors "matched student activists with a nascent association of current and former Walmart associates: the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)" and from the summary provided by Columbia University Press: "They [the authors] follow the efforts of this new partnership, considering the formation of collective identity and the relationship between social ties and social change. They show why traditional unions have been unable to organize service-sector workers in places like Walmart and offer provocative suggestions for new strategies and directions."[7]

The book cites Andrea Dehlendorf, Colby Harris and Cindy Murray as "teaching students" about "organizing at Walmart." The book lists some OUR Walmart staff as Dan Schlademan, Eric Schlein, Eddie Iny, Angela Williamson, Girshriela Green, Cindy Murray and Colby Harris.[8]

Campaigns

According to their website, some of their campaigns include the "Wall Street Accountability Campaign," the "Toys 'R' Us" Campaign, the "Sears" Campaign, and the "Fair Workweek" initiative."[9]

The "Fair Workweek Initiative" was also cited in a 2017 "report" titled "Job Quality and Economic Opportunity in Retail: Key Findings from a National Survey of the Retail Workforce" conducted by the Center for Popular Democracy, which gave the following acknowledgements that included Andrea Dehlendorf and Tyfani Faulkner of United for Respect:[10]

This report was researched and written by Maggie Corser. It was edited by Rachel Deutsch, Carrie Gleason, and Lily Wang, Fair Workweek Initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy. This survey benefited from the input of an advisory group which included: Andrea Dehlendorf and Tyfani Faulkner, United for Respect; Dr. Anna Haley-Lock, Rutgers University; Dr. Arne Kalleberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Dr. Susan Lambert, University of Chicago. We would like to thank the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for supporting this research.

Progressive Caucus Action Fund Session

United for Respect was heavily represented at the Progressive Strategy Summit named "Building Power for the Rest of Us" held on October 24-25 2019 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. Andrea Dehlendorf, Vasudha Desikan, Jasmine Dixon, Terrysa Guerra, Guled Mohamad and Dania Rajendra of United for Respect were "featured" in a panel headlined "From the Shop Floor to the House Floor: Bringing; Lessons from the Picket Lines into Policy Debates" which aimed to "discuss our shared goals of rebalancing our economy to achieve racial, gender, and economic justice."[11]

Verbatim:

"A hallmark of the progressive movement is a belief that the experiences and needs of working people should animate our policy and politics. This session will bring together organizers, policy makers, labor leaders, advocates, and activists to discuss our shared goals of rebalancing our economy to achieve racial, gender, and economic justice. Bank workers from Santander and Wells Fargo, women working at Walmart, warehouse workers at Amazon, federal contract workers, and striking UAW workers will describe their campaign goals. Special guest members of Congress and national policy leaders will have the opportunity to describe the change they're fighting for in Washington and recent progress building worker power through legislative campaigns. Some of the questions that may be addressed include: How do we achieve better alignment between policy in Washington and people organizing on the front lines? What are the gaps in existing legislation that need to be filled to support working people in a rapidly changing economy? What are the steps we need to take to rein in corporate power, beyond traditional labor legislation? How does the legislation currently on offer build worker power and achieve racial, economic and gender justice?
Moderator: Dorian Warren, Center for Community Change
Featuring: Rep. Donald Norcross; Rep. Mark Pocan, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair; Rep. Mark Takano; Randy Bryce; Emily Chatterjee, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights; Jaya Chatterjee, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project; Andrea Dehlendorf, United for Respect; Vasudha Desikan United for Respect; Jasmine Dixon, United for Respect; Richard Eidlin, American Sustainable Business Council; Joseph Geevarghese, Our Revolution; Terrysa Guerra, United for Respect; Desiree Hoffman, United Automobile Workers; Shane Larson, Communications Workers of America; David Madland, Center for American Progress; Emily Martin, National Women’s Law Center; Michelle McGrain, National Partnership from Women & Families; Guled Mohamad, United for Respect; Josh Nassar, United Automobile Workers; Jackie Parncutt, United Auto Workers, General Motors worker; Dania Rajendra, United for Respect; Larriese Reeves, Santander Bank worker; Alex Ross, Wells Fargo worker; Bill Samuel, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); Heidi Shierholz, Economic Policy Institute

Individuals Cited at United for Respect Website

Cyndi Murray with Tammy Baldwin via United for Respect's Website

Individuals cited at the United for Respect website as of December 1 2019 include Cyndi Murray (see image with Tammy Baldwin), Pilar Barragan, Liz Marin, Kristi Branstetter

National Leading From the Inside Out Alum

OurWalmart co-director Andrea Dehlendorf

Andrea Dehlendorf Co-Executive Director, Organization United for Respect at Walmart was a 2017 Rockwood Leadership Institute National Leading From the Inside Out Alum.[12]

OURWalmart SF

Gordon Mar June 29, 2013.

Gordon Mar

OURWalmart, community and labor allies meeting now, preparing for action today at 12pm at 757 Market Street, Walmart director Marissa Mayer's penthouse apt and Gap at Market and Powell demanding WMT & Gap sign Bangladesh sweatshops fire safety accord. — with Maria Guillen, Jenya Cassidy, Blesilda Ocampo, Annelisa Luong, Feng Kung, Kasi Farrar, Mabel Tsang, Lotus Yee Fong, Brooke Anderson, Dan Harper, Kathe Burick, Pilar Schiavo, La Colectiva de Mujeres and Shanell Williams at Unite Here! Local 2.

Sued by Walmart

"In July, 2013 Walmart, sued Communist Party USA member and retired Texas union activist Gene Lantz, the United Food and Commercial Workers, United for Respect, and Jobs with Justice for civil trespassing for crossing their parking lots.
"Gene Lantz has been making videos of public officials supporting Walmart workers and posting on them YouTube. He believes this may be a key tactic in the long strategy to hold Walmart accountable.[13]
"Wal-Mart wants the groups to be permanently restrained from trespassing on Wal-Mart property in Texas for unlawful activities. Since March, five similar lawsuits have been filed by Wal-Mart in other states."[14]

Black Friday protests, 2013

"Walmart workers, the nation's labor leaders, and community leaders from all across the country called a press conference Nov. 19, 2013, where they announced plans to turn the busiest holiday shopping day of the year into one of the largest mobilizations of workers in U.S. history.
'Organizations representing tens of millions are throwing their support behind underpaid and abused Walmart workers who are planning strikes, walkouts and demonstrations at Walmart stores from coast to coast on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the holiday season.
'Amid spontaneous strikes and protests already breaking out at Walmarts in many cities, the labor and community leaders declared here yesterday their intention to pull off one of the largest mobilizations of U.S. working families ever when the Walmart workers walk out next week.
"Count on the full support of the millions of working people who belong to our unions," declared Richard Trumka, president of the 13 million member AFL-CIO at the press conference.
"The scale of support and nationwide activity being planned for Black Friday is unlike anything we've seen in recent history. Black Friday is destined to become a Labor Day, not of picnics but of action for workers," said Peter Dreier, Distinguished Professor of Politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles and author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame. Dreier joined the assembly of labor, community, civil rights, on-line organizing and other leaders at the press conference.
"As income inequality climbs to historic levels and families are increasingly pushed to the margins, working families are coming together to demand better," said Dreier. "This year," he predicted, "the day after Thanksgiving will be remembered not as the busiest shopping day of the year but as the day Americans took action to demand that the country's largest employer pay workers a livable wage and play a part in improving our economy."
"The fight for better pay, full time work and an end to illegal retaliation against workers who fight for a better life isn't just a Walmart workers issue," said Trumka.
"It's a family issue, it's a women's issue, it's an immigrant rights issue, a student issue, an environmental protection issue and it's a consumer issue - above all it's an issue of fairness. The 13 million members of the AFL-CIO stand in lockstep with the Walmart workers."
Tiffany Beroid, a Walmart worker active with the non-union group of Walmart associates who call themselves OUR Walmart, interrupted in the middle of the press conference to announce breaking news that the NLRB was prosecuting Walmart for illegal firings of workers who went out on strike last June.
"This is such good news," she said. It is great to know that we actually have the government of this country behind us."
The decision to prosecute Walmart was made by Richard Griffin, Jr., only recently confirmed by the Senate as President Obama's nominee to the position of General Counsel of the NLRB.
MoveOn.org, a huge national online organization that supports an array of progressive causes, has thrown its full support to the Black Friday organizing drive.
"Our 8 million members stand in solidarity with Walmart workers for a very simple reason: hardworking people deserve to be able to get by," said Anna Gallana, executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action. "Our members will be out in force on Black Friday exposing Walmart's poverty wages, dangerous working conditions and illegal retaliation."[15]
In a Nov. 22, 2013 press conference, members of OURWalmart announced that workers throughout the U.S. are planning strikes, walkouts, and demonstrations at 1,500 Walmart locations - up from 1,200 in 2012.
The actions will be "one of the largest mobilizations of working families in American history," organizers said. Protesters will call for Walmart to raise its labor standards, including increasing wages and ceasing to threaten its employees with disciplinary measures when they attempt to organize.
Conference moderator Barbara Gertz, a five-year Walmart worker from Colorado, noted that more than half of the big-box giant's hourly employees make less than $25,000 per year. She remarked, "Why do we, workers at the world's largest company, have to band together just to afford Thanksgiving dinner? Yes, Walmart 'associates' stick together and look out for each other. We have to, because Walmart and the Waltons seem to be fine with the financial struggles we're all facing."
As noted in a follow-up press release, "Walmart makes more than $17 billion in profits, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $144.7 billion - equal to that of 42 percent of Americans."
Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst and OURWalmart member, pointed out that there's simply no excuse for that sharp inequality. There are clearly measures the corporation could take to treat its workers more fairly. For example, she said, "We looked at the billions that Walmart spends annually on unproductive investments on Wall Street. If it diverted these funds, it could raise workers' wages. Walmart also spends money on share buybacks, which don't always even benefit investors in the long term. This, too, could be going to workers."
She noted, however, "Walmart's current business model is certainly benefiting the heirs to the Walton fortune. But unfortunately, that's not the case for workers, or for taxpayers who end up subsidizing Walmart's payroll."
Dorian Warren, an associate professor at Columbia University who spoke at the news conference, added, "We think of Walmart as the embodiment of what's wrong with the American economy. For the typical worker, it represents the death of the American dream and the decline of social mobility. But OURWalmart members are trying to revive the dream. Working families are fighting back like never before, and they have the support of America behind them."
The demonstrations will be another step in the battle against Walmart's anti-worker practices, coming right behind a recent victory for workers, when the National Labor Relations Board decided to charge and fine Walmart for illegal retaliations against its employees who spoke out for better jobs.
Warren continued, "Black Friday 2013 will mark a turning point in American history. 1,500 protests against Walmart is unprecedented."
"Walmart is just a bully," declared Dallas worker Qulima Knacp. "And the only way to fight back against a bully is to speak up. People across the country are starting to see the real Walmart, and that's why I continue to stand up, because the time for change is now."[16]

2012 Black Friday Protests

From the Communist Party USA publication People's World by: Ben Markeson November 26 2012:

"Walmart workers and labor and community allies held a protest at an east Orlando Walmart on Nov. 23, 2012. (Black Friday). The action was one of hundreds organized around the country by OURWalmart--on the biggest shopping day of the year--to press the retail giant for "better wages, working conditions, an end to retaliation and intimidation of its workers, and respect from bosses."
"OURWalmart is the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers, with members in 700 Walmart stores in 42 states.
"U.S. Rep.-elect Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, joined the protestors for the bus ride to the Walmart. Many of those who marched to the store entrance had tape over their mouths to symbolize attempts by Walmart to intimidate and silence workers who speak out about their treatment at the company's 4,600 stores in the U.S.
"Rep. Grayson told the protestors that it's possible for working people to have living wages, paid sick leave, health coverage, paid vacations and pensions. He also called upon Walmart to give all its employees a 30 percent pay raise, noting that the company would still be extremely profitable.
"It all comes down to one thing: organization. The people have to exercise their right to organize--that's what it comes down to, and when that does happen, we win, because the people united will never be defeated," Rep. Grayson said, prompting cheering and chanting from the crowd.
"Denise Diaz, director of Central Florida Jobs with Justice participated, as did Angela Williamson, 42, an OURWalmart organizer with the UFCW, and Communist Party USA member Ben Markeson.
"Other unions and groups with a presence at the Black Friday action included AFSCME, IUPAT, Industrial Workers of the World, Student Labor Action Project, Alliance for Retired Americans, Orlando Food Not Bombs and Occupy Orlando. State Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1596, also attended.
OURWalmart organized a dinner Thanksgiving night (Nov. 22) at an Orlando-area store, handing out food (provided by the local AFL-CIO Central Labor Council) to 30 Walmart workers. Rep. Grayson also attended this action and walked out with Lisa Lopez, a store worker and new OURWalmartmember.[17]

Wal-Mart Workers Try the Nonunion Route

On June 14 2011, Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times profiled United for Respect:[18]

"After numerous failed attempts to unionize Wal-Mart stores, the nation’s main union for retail workers has decided to try a different approach: it has helped create a new, nonunion group of Wal-Mart employees that intends to press for better pay, benefits and most of all, more respect at work.
"The group, Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart for short, says it has quietly signed up thousands of members in recent months, and it is going public this week with a Web site, ourwalmart.org, and a Facebook page. Organizers say they have more than 50 members at some stores, and they hope to soon have tens of thousands of members. Wal-Mart has nearly 1.4 million workers nationwide.
"Although the Web site of OUR Walmart depicts the organization as a grass-roots effort by Wal-Mart workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers has provided a sizable sum — the union will not say how much — to help the group get started. The union has also paid hundreds of its members to go door to door to urge Wal-Mart workers to join the group.
"In addition, the organizers are receiving help from ASGK Public Strategies, a consulting firm long associated with David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political strategist.
"In recent weeks, OUR Walmart has organized gatherings of 10 to 80 workers in Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles and other cities, meeting inside churches, fast-food restaurants and employees’ homes, where the workers chewed over how they would like to improve Wal-Mart. One big concern, they said, was low wages.
"“I’m hoping that OUR Walmart will make a difference in the long run,” said Margaret Van Ness, an overnight stocker at a Wal-Mart store in Lancaster, Calif., about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. Ms. Van Ness earns $11.40 an hour after four years of working there.
"“The managers at our store and others are running over their associates as if they didn’t exist,” she said. “They treat them like cattle. They don’t seem to care about respect for the individuals. We need to bring back respect.”
"Unlike a union, the group will not negotiate contracts on behalf of workers. But its members could benefit from federal labor laws that protect workers from retaliation for engaging in collective discussion and action.
"Wal-Mart officials say that the new organization is essentially a stalking horse for eventual unionization, and they say the retail union is intent on pushing up Wal-Mart’s wages and slowing its expansion to help protect the union’s members at other retailers from competition.
“There’s nothing new about the fact that labor unions want to unionize Wal-Mart,” said David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman. “This is an effort to attract media attention to further their political agenda.”
"The new group is the latest iteration of worker groups aimed at pressuring Wal-Mart. Earlier groups included Walmart Watch and Wake-Up Wal-Mart, both backed by unions, as well as the Wal-Mart Workers Association, a short-lived and foundation-backed group composed of Florida Wal-Mart employees.
"Officials from the United Food and Commercial Workers are vowing that the new organization will be bigger and better than previous Wal-Mart groups.
"“We’ve got Wal-Mart associates in large numbers coming to us and saying, ‘We need a voice. This company is mistreating us. We want to stay here, but we need to be able to change the way we’re being treated,’ ” said Daniel Schlademan, director of Making Change at Wal-Mart, a division of the union. “The best thing the U.F.C.W. can be is a catalyst to help associates build an organization.”
"OUR Walmart does not go out of its way to disclose its ties to the union or to Mr. Axelrod’s former firm, although officials at the union and the consulting firm say they disclose their roles if asked.
"Wal-Mart employees say that store managers around the country have made clear at meetings that OUR Walmart has no affiliation with the company, the world’s largest retailer.
"Mr. Tovar, the Wal-Mart spokesman, said the company “provides associates with a work environment based on respect, dignity and future partnership in the business.”
"“The fact is our wages and benefits typically exceed those provided by the majority of our competition,” Mr. Tovar added. “As a result, our associates have concluded time and again that they are better off with the pay, benefits package and opportunities for advancement provided by Wal-Mart and have chosen to reject unions.”
"Union officials say they hope OUR Walmart will embolden workers and someday pave the way for successful unionization drives at Wal-Mart.
"“The mission of the U.F.C.W. is to raise standards for workers in the retail and grocery industry,” said Jennifer Stapleton, assistant director of Making Change at Wal-Mart. “You cannot change the standards in the retail and grocery industry unless you also change Wal-Mart.”
"Mr. Schlademan said Wal-Mart employees should not have to wait until Wal-Mart someday recognizes the union through an organizing drive before they have a voice on the job.
"Wal-Mart has aggressively battled organizing drives at its stores — it even closed a Canadian store after its workers voted to unionize. Mr. Schlademan acknowledged that it was hard to get a majority of workers at a particular Wal-Mart store to vote in support of a union.
"Kent Wong, director of Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, said OUR Walmart was a smart approach for a union movement that is on the defensive. “Given the circumstances,” he said, “unions need to explore creative ways of organizing that will provide some opportunity for workers to have a voice to improve wages and working conditions.”
"OUR Walmart has been inspired by a handful of groups that unions formed when they recognized it would be too difficult to unionize a company.
"The foremost model is the Alliance at I.B.M., a group with several hundred dues-paying members and some 5,000 supporters that has backed several shareholder actions and has often spoken out to the news media on workplace safety issues and the outsourcing of high-tech jobs. The Alliance once mounted a protest that helped persuade I.B.M. to revise a pension overhaul that had hurt many older workers.
"“It’s very difficult to win a union election in the United States, especially at sophisticated companies like I.B.M. and Wal-Mart,” said Lee Conrad, the Alliance’s national coordinator. “But these groups show you can raise issues that help workers.”
"In recent months, the food and commercial workers union has paid most of the salary of several hundred members, on leave from their jobs, to knock on doors and otherwise reach out to Wal-Mart employees to urge them to join OUR Walmart. Those who join are being asked to pay dues of $5 a month. The new organization plans to draft recommendations to improve working conditions, and hopes to meet soon with Wal-Mart’s top management.
"“Someone has to stand up to say something,” said Deondra Thomas, a shoe department employee at a Dallas Wal-Mart, who earns $8.90 an hour after three years there. “So many people have been quiet for so long. A lot of us think Wal-Mart is an awesome company, but as far as the employees, they treat us like dirt.”

References

  1. United for Respect website accessed December 1 2019
  2. Wal-Mart Workers Try the Nonunion Route accessed December 1 2019
  3. Elizabeth Warren's Tweet dated November 30 2019 accessed December 1 2019
  4. Retail workers are more vulnerable than ever. A new campaign wants to protect their jobs. accessed December 1 2019
  5. Rise Up Retail Tweet accessed December 1 2019
  6. Labor union leader targets Walmart worker abuse accessed December 2 2019
  7. accessed December 1 2019
  8. Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart accessed December 1 2019
  9. United for Respect website Campaigns accessed December 1 2019
  10. [Job Quality and Economic Opportunity in Retail: Key Findings from a National Survey of the Retail Workforce accessed Dec 1 2019]
  11. Building Power for the Rest of Us accessed December 1 2019
  12. [1]
  13. [http://peoplesworld.org/walmart-sues-activist-for-standing-up-for-exploited-workers/, PW, Walmart sues activist for standing up for exploited workers by: Stewart Acuff. July 19 2013]
  14. DallasNews Business, Gene Lantz tells what it’s like to be sued by the largest corporation in America By Maria Halkias mhalkias@dallasnews.com 11:47 am on June 19, 2013
  15. PW, Plans to make Black Friday by: JOHN WOJCIK november 19 2013
  16. PW Workers plan nationwide strikes against "bully" Walmart, by: Blake Deppe. November 22 2013
  17. PW, OURWalmart and allies protest Walmart in Orlando, by: Ben Markeson November 26 2012
  18. Wal-Mart Workers Try the Nonunion Route accessed December 1 2019