Walmart has hired an intelligence-gathering team from Lockheed Martin, one of the biggest defence contracting companies in the world, to survey its employees and keep track of union activity, Bloomberg’s Susan Berfield reports.
The retailer also keeps a detailed record of store managers’ reports to an internal hotline about employees who have suggested anti-Walmart sentiment, according to the report.
Walmart first hired Lockheed Martin in 2012, ahead of planned Black Friday protests by a group called OUR Walmart, which is fighting for higher pay and more regular working schedules for Walmart employees, according to Berfield’s report.
The Lockheed Martin analysts reportedly surveyed employees’ social media activity to keep tabs on planned protests and strikes.
Berfield learned of Walmart’s surveillance tactics after reviewing more than 1,000 pages of emails, transcripts, and other documents produced in discovery ahead of a National Labour Relations Board hearing into allegations that Walmart retaliated against employees who protested against the retailer in June 2013.
We reached out to Walmart for comment and will update when we hear back.The company sent Bloomberg the following statement:
“We are firmly committed to the safety and security of our 2.2 million associates as well as the 260 million customers we serve each week. It’s important to remember that Walmart is the largest company in the world with 11,500 stores in 28 countries. Unfortunately, there are occasions when outside groups attempt to deliberately disrupt our business and on behalf of our customers and associates we take action accordingly.”
Walmart’s media relations team has often claimed that OUR Walmart overstates the involvement of Walmart workers in their protests.
“This is just another union publicity stunt, and the numbers they are talking about are grossly exaggerated,” David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman at the time, said on CBS Evening News in November 2012 referring to planned Black Friday protests.
This year, instead of striking or protesting on Black Friday, OUR Walmart is planning a 15-day fast leading up to the shopping holiday.
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