Friday, September 23, 2011

Just Shoot Me...

... If My Employer Ever Forces Me Sing Their Praises

I wonder how professors would react if their employers told them to sing a song every morning about how wonderful their employer is?  Hmm, might work.

Back in the mid-1990s, I was working on case for the United Steelworkers involving a union organizing campaign at a WalMart store in Windsor. The Steelworkers went on to win certification at that store after Walmart broke the law by telling employees that certain benefits would be taken away from them if they unionized, and by implying that the store might be closed and everyone fired if the employees voted for the union. As my industrial students will learn, employers can’t do that, since if workers expect to be fired for unionizing, odds are they won’t vote for a union.

The Windsor store became the first unionized store in the world.   I have a few memories of that case, and the hearing at the Labour Board, that have stuck with me.

One involves stories about the “Walmart Cheer”, which employees were required to participate in before most shifts. The Walmart “squiggly” part of the cheer came up several times in cross-examination, usually to hushed chuckles from those in the hearing room. Walmart managers insisted that the cheer was “voluntary” and that workers did it out of the pure joy they experience from being a Walmart employee. Uh-huh.

During the organizing campaign, I recall, one of the employees who supported the union got sanctioned by Walmart for clapping off beat during the cheer! Walmart said he was not being a team player.

Anyhow, I was reminded of all this nonsense today when someone sent me this stupid clip of a Walmart cheer:

Yep. Sure looks like the employees are acting of the spontaneous joy of earning minimum wage at Walmart.

What do you think? Is forcing employees to sing the praises to their employer every morning ingenious and progressive HRM, or repulsive indoctrination of workers who have no choice but to clap along and humiliate themselves?

If you think the latter, then do you think this is something the state should prohibit by means of some law, or is this something that should not be the subject of legal regulation? After all, if the workers aren’t happy, they could always quit, or join a union.

Oh, wait, if they join a union, Walmart will close the store and fire them all. What a wonderful company and world leader in corporate ethical behaviour.

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