Wal-Mart, Don’t Discount the Power of Teachers

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The following guest post is from Amber Rain Chandler, a teacher in western New York.

At the end of July, I was inundated with Facebook posts telling me about Wal-Mart’s Teacher Appreciation Week. How were teachers like me appreciated exactly? We could get an e-card for 10 percent back on “qualifying” purchases of supplies, basically a glorified gift card for the store.

But let’s be clear: Teachers know that Wal-Mart is not giving us or our schools anything meaningful to genuinely make a difference in the education of our kids. To the contrary, Wal-Mart’s “appreciation” for teachers has been to spend an incredible amount of money to discredit and shut out the voice of teachers, who are the ones who are the closest to students and need to be involved in the decisions about their education.

In New York state, Wal-Mart has been funneling massive amounts of money to privatize education and all but wipe out public education. In the past few years, the Walton Family Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to New York groups leading the push to “reform” schools using charter schools and vouchers. One of these groups spent more than $50,000 on the last two Buffalo school board races. How will our community in western New York move forward when research shows that what works is not privatization, but giving students in public schools a rich curriculum with well-supported, well-trained teachers, and the right mix of academic interventions, wraparound services and other needed resources. Privatization is Wal-Mart’s magic bullet. If Wal-Mart truly wants to make an impact on education, it could start with helping to overcome the unrelenting poverty in the city of Buffalo and the widening academic achievement gap, or by providing funds for enough language teachers to address the huge English-as-a-second-language (ELL) population in western New York. Educators, parents and school boards need to recognize that Wal-Mart’s “philanthropy” is in name only; instead, it is shamelessly creating generational poverty. When students come to school from homes where parents have lost their jobs, and where parents’ work does not provide a living wage, the students suffer.

Sure, with the deep school budget cuts over the past several years, I can understand why schools are so tempted to grab whatever cash they can get. Budget cuts have decimated the teaching staff, creating larger class sizes and the loss of electives. Can I attribute this directly to Wal-Mart? No, but they have influence with groups that promote privatization over fixing our neighborhood public schools. Educators do not want any part of a Wal-Mart agenda.

Wal-Mart’s ads about its appreciation for teachers are not really about helping teachers or students. Rather, it is all about a public relations scheme to appear supportive of education while luring shoppers to patronize its stores. The reality is that many of us would rather shop at a store that not only provides discounts, but also honors American values and genuinely values public school teachers.

So, I’m countering those Facebook posts and ads with messages of my own. During this back-to-school season, I’m letting my friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook know that I’m not shopping at Wal-Mart. Instead, I’m sharing the facts to show another side of Wal-Mart’s happy face.

Teachers won’t be fooled with coupons. We’re not going to put money behind a corporation that doesn’t have our students’ best interest at heart.

My message to Wal-Mart is simple: Don’t discount the power of teachers.


AmberAmber Rain Chandler teaches seventh-grade English Language Arts at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, N.Y. Amber also teaches Methods in English Teaching at Medaille College and leads staff development on Differentiation for the Southtown Teachers Center.

This post originally appeared on MomsRising.org.

Report: The Phony Philanthropy of the Walmart Heirs

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Report: The Phony Philanthropy of the Walmart Heirs (June 2014)

The Waltons – America’s richest family – have contributed almost none of their own wealth to the Walton Family Foundation and use the Foundation to avoid an estimated $3 billion in estate taxes, according to a report released today by  The Walmart1Percent. Based on an analysis of 23 annual tax returns filed by the Walton Family Foundation, the report shows that, if the Foundation is their primary vehicle for giving, the Waltons give much less generously than their billionaire peers and ordinary Americans.

Download the full report (PDF)

Or  the executive summary (PDF)

Key Findings:

  • Rob Walton, chairman of Walmart’s board of directors, has not made a single contribution to the Foundation.
  • Alice Walton, has not given a single dollar to the Foundation.
  • Jim Walton made one personal contribution of $3 million to the Walton Family Foundation, more than 15 years ago.
  • The total contributions of Rob, Jim, Alice, and Christy Walton, and their family holding company to the Walton Family Foundation amount to $58.49 million, equivalent to:
    • 0.04% of their net worth;
    • Less than one week’s worth of the Walmart dividends they will receive this year.
    • Less than the estimated value of Rob Walton’s collection of vintage sports cars.


Rob Walton: Zero for the Family Foundation; Tens of Millions for Vintage Sports Cars (June 3, 2014)

Fact Check: Did Alice Walton Really build Crystal Bridges Museum? (June 3, 2014)

The Waltons – Charity Begins at Home (Sept. 13, 2013)


Walmart Workers Lead Candle-Lit March to Walmart Heir’s Estate in Lead Up to Shareholders’ Meeting

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OUR Walmart momsLast night, more than 100 Walmart workers and their community supporters gathered in Phoenix, Arizona, for a town hall meeting on the growing inequality that impacts all of us in this country.

From there, the group headed out into the evening on a candle-lit march to the home of Walmart heir and Board Chair Rob Walton. In front of the gates of this Walton estate out in the desert, workers carried flags reading “moms won’t be silenced.”

Workers held the meeting and march to call on Rob Walton to respect workers’ right to speak out without fear of retaliation or step down as board chair given his many failures in leadership. One of six Walton heirs and majority owners of Walmart, Rob has failed to address basic concerns over wages, worker treatment and corporate controls, while he has continued to enrich his family – already the wealthiest in America – at the cost of millions of workers in Walmart’s stores and throughout its supply chain.

Walmart workers have had enough and they will not stay silent. Until Rob Walton steps down or Walmart consistently enacts worker-friendly policies, OUR Walmart will be continue to speak out against retaliation.

This post originally appeared on the Walmart Watch blog.

Walmart-backed State Senator spouts off against marriage equality ruling

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Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert (R-Conway) spouted off against marriage equality last week – and simultaneously demonstrated his ignorance of the U.S. Constitution.  And it turns out that Walmart has contributed to Sen. Rapert’s re-election campaign

Walmart-backed State Senator tweets his opposition to marriage equality

Walmart-backed State Senator tweets his opposition to marriage equality

After Pulaski County, Arkansas Judge Chris Piazza struck down Arkansas’s gay marriage ban, Sen. Rapert tweeted:

“So one judge decides the majority vote of Arkansans means nothing? Precedent says Holy Matrimony is between one man & one woman.”

Sen. Rapert – known locally for his extreme anti-gay and anti-choice positions, and for his opposition to climate change legislation (all documented here by The Nation’s Lee Fang) – became nationally infamous last February, when The Nation posted a video of his racially-tinged rant against President Obama at a public event in 2011.

We pointed out at the time that Walmart heir and director Jim Walton and his wife had contributed $3,000 to Rapert since December 2010.

Today, we took another look at Rapert’s campaign finance disclosure reports and – lo and behold –we came across a $2,000 contribution from Walmart’s political action committee in July 2013.

A July 13, 2013 campaign finance disclosure report reveals a $2,000 Walmart contribution to Rapert

A July 13, 2013 campaign finance disclosure report reveals a $2,000 Walmart contribution to Rapert

It’s striking that Walmart’s contribution went to support Rapert in the upcoming May 20, 2014 Republican primary (as it turns out, he’s running unopposed).

It’s not like Walmart’s support can be attributed to the company’s opposition to some ultra-liberal challenger. Rather, Walmart seems to have gone out of its way to put its stamp of approval on Rapert.

Walmart Director Marissa Mayer Gets Paid $214 Million for “Doing Nothing”

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Marissa Mayer attends the San Francisco Opera Gala in 2011 with her husband, Zachary Bogue (Source: SFGate)

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who is also a member of the Walmart Board of Directors, has shown no sympathy for the plight of Walmart’s low-paid employees or the taxpayers forced to pick up the tab for the public assistance programs they rely on to get by.

Last November, Mayer even joked publicly with a friend (the billionaire CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff) at the expense of Walmart workers protesting their plight.

But I guess when you’re the kind of person who gets paid more than $200 million for doing nothing it’s just tough to relate to the little people.

Writing in The New York Times this week, Steven Davidoff analyzed Mayer’s Yahoo paycheck. His conclusion:

Ms. Mayer, the Yahoo chief executive, had received compensation worth potentially $214 million — most of which was for doing nothing.

Wait, what?! How is that possible?

Her good fortune stems from Yahoo’s stake in the Chinese Internet behemoth Alibaba, a deal that was arranged in 2005 by Yahoo’s co-founder, Jerry Yang. The enthusiasm and hype over a likely initial public offering by Alibaba has driven Yahoo’s stock to a sky-high valuation, a surge that has showered Ms. Mayer with vast riches.

Is that really fair? I mean, hasn’t Mayer re-ignited investor and public interest in Yahoo? And hasn’t the company benefited from the positive attention Yahoo gets as a result of Mayer’s Silicon Valley celebrity status? Davidoff isn’t buying that story.

A paycheck of more than $200 million is sweet, but the problem is that the value is not primarily a result of anything she has done as chief executive. Yahoo continues to struggle — its revenue last year was $4.68 billion, down from $4.98 billion in 2012. In the first quarter of 2014, Yahoo’s income fell 84 percent, to $30 million from $186 million in the quarter a year earlier. Moreover, there has been a bit of turmoil in Yahoo’s executive suites. Ms. Mayer’s trusted lieutenant, Henrique de Castro, who was hired to assist the turnaround, was recently fired as chief operating officer.

And Davidoff reminds his readers that the de Castro fiasco – justifiably blamed on Mayer – cost Yahoo a pretty penny:

Mr. de Castro received $58 million when he was pushed out less than a year and a half after his hiring.

Mayer used Yahoo’s Alibaba riches to buy up a massive treasure trove of Silicon Valley startups (and talent), including Tumblr, for which she paid an astounding $1 billion. But the jury is still (way) out on whether these acquisitions will ultimately move the dial on Yahoo’s ailing bottom line.

Mayer is widely reported to rely on hard data to make decisions about everything in her personal and business life – what job to take, where to invest, who to hire, even what colors should be allowed on the Google search page, which she used to manage.

I imagine that Mayer justifies her dismissal of Walmart workers’ concerns by telling herself they’re just not worthy of better treatment – that “the data” doesn’t support their case.

Maybe it’s time for her to look in the mirror.


Walmart Director Aida Alvarez is VERY Committed to Avoiding Walmart Workers  

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Aida ImageIt’s disturbing, but not surprising. Walmart Board member Aida Alvarez is nothing if not consistent.  For eight years, Alvarez has served on the Board of Walmart. For more than two years, Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart have been asking to meet with Ms. Alvarez.   She has refused or ignored more than a dozen requests from Walmart workers and their allies to meet. That’s consistency.

We are right now in the midst of the latest, and almost comical, effort by Ms. Alvarez to avoid Walmart workers. In addition to being a Walmart director, Alvarez is also the chair of the Latino Community Foundation.  Knowing that she would be at tonight’s Annual LCF Gala – and because (and this is important) they support the work of the LCF – Walmart workers purchased tickets for tonight’s event, requested time off work, rented a car, reserved hotel rooms and traveled from around California to attend the event.    It is worth noting that Walmart is a major sponsor of the event.

 To the surprise of no one, but the disappointment of many, at the last minute, the Walmart workers’ tickets were mysteriously canceled.   Unfortunately, Ms. Alvarez was apparently so afraid of even being in the same room with Walmart workers like Venanzi Luna and Evelin Cruz, that the Latino Community Foundation cancelled their tickets and, in doing so, returned a significant donation to the LCF.

Now Walmart workers are calling on Ms. Alvarez to end her 8-year silence and begin to create a sense of urgency at Walmart again – urgency for justice for Walmart workers, many of whom face poverty-level wages and illegal retaliation, including possible termination, if they speak out about their workplace concerns.

Alvarez recently told The San Francisco Business Journal that the Walmart Board was instrumental in pushing Walmart’s management to be more aggressive about investing in e-commerce: “The Board was very important in creating a sense of urgency,” she said. “This was not something that was part of a 10-year plan, this needed to be done now.”

As chair of the LCF, Alvarez has talked a lot about the need to invest in the Latino community.    But there’s a gaint disconnect here because Walmart is the nation’s largest employer of Latino workers, so if Ms. Alvarez is really interested in investing in the Latino community she could certainly make a big impact by challenging the way that Walmart’s treats its own workers. At the very least, she might at least take some time to actually hear from some of those workers. And she could certainly decide not to ban them from the LCF gala tonight.

Meeting with Walmart workers would be a great opportunity to hear directly from Associates about their experience on the job, the challenges they face and their ideas about how to make Walmart a stronger company.

So why is Alvarez so determined to avoid Walmart workers?

Sign the petition – which now has more than 54,000 signatures – and ask Alvarez to be a leader for change at Walmart.



Two More Walmart Board Members Resign; Five Gone in Last Two Years

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Christopher WilliamsIn another sign of the growing pressure from Walmart workers and their allies, Walmart announced in its annual proxy statement (a report filed with the SEC in advance of the annual shareholders meeting) yesterday that two long-time board members would be stepping down. The two board members are former Walmart CEO Lee Scott, Jr. and independent board member and Audit Committee chairman Christopher Williams.

Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) and their allies have repeatedly reached out to Mr. Williams, asking him listen to their concerns. In response to his continued lack of leadership, calls began to grow for Mr. Williams’ resignation.

OUR Walmart member Barbara Gertz, released a statement upon the news that Mr. Williams would be stepping down. The statement read, in part:

We hope that the departure of Mr. Williams and Mr. Scott provide an opening for new, independent voices at Walmart. We have been calling on Mr. Williams and other independent members of the board to stand up for change at Walmart. Mr. Williams has refused to listen to our concerns. We called on him to resign because we need board members who recognize and value our experiences.

LeeScottMr. Scott and Mr. Williams are two of those most heavily implicated in the ongoing investigation into alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at Walmart. Mr. Scott was CEO during the time that the alleged bribery and apparent cover-up at Walmart’s Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mex, took place.

The New York Times reported that Mr. Scott was instrumental in limiting Walmart’s internal investigation and, ultimately, in handing it back to some of the very people who were implicated in the alleged bribery:

In one meeting [in 2006] where the bribery case was discussed, H. Lee Scott Jr., then Wal-Mart’s chief executive, rebuked internal investigators for being overly aggressive. Days later, records show, Wal-Mart’s top lawyer arranged to ship the internal investigators’ files on the case to Mexico City. Primary responsibility for the investigation was then given to the general counsel of Wal-Mart de Mexico — a remarkable choice since the same general counsel was alleged to have authorized bribes.

In 2013, New York City Comptroller John Liu specifically raised concerns about Mr. Scott’s role in squashing the internal investigation and exposing shareholders, including the NYC Pension Funds, to additional risk as a result:

Wal-Mart’s failure to pursue a timely, independent investigation in fall 2005 has potentially exposed the corporation and its shareowners to even more serious financial and reputational harm. Two current inside directors, CEO Michael Duke and former CEO H. Lee Scott, were aware of the allegations and, in Mr. Scott’s case, took affirmative steps to shut down a thorough independent investigation.

Mr. Williams has been on Walmart’s board since 2004 and has been a member of the Audit Committee, the key committee charged with overseeing issues of internal controls and legal compliance, since 2005. Mr. Williams has chaired the Audit Committee since 2009. Since the New York Times surfaced the bribery allegations, Mr. Williams has consistently received some of the highest “no” votes from institutional investors at Walmart.

We hope that the addition of Walmart’s new CEO, Doug McMillon, and the departure of two longtime board members signals an ongoing change at the company. OUR Walmart member Barbara Gertz concluded her statement in response to the departure of Christopher Williams and Lee Scott with this:

The evidence suggests there may have been a sustained cover-up of the alleged FCPA violations, and despite excessive spending in legal fees, no one at Walmart has been held publicly accountable. Under misguided leadership, Walmart is moving in a direction of breaking and bending the rules, and declining same-store sales are the result. Instead, Walmart should invest in the heart of its business: workers who will help boost store sales, improve customer service and get business back on track. The entire country needs Walmart to provide better paying jobs now that will get the economy moving again.

We couldn’t agree more.

The Walton family’s role in school re-segregation

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Under the guise of “reforming” K-12 education, the Walton family, which owns a majority of Walmart and has raked in unfathomable wealth off the backs of low-wage Walmart workers, has poured over $1 billion into efforts to undermine public schools and promote a corporate-friendly, privatized model of education.

The Walton family’s work in education is both misguided and profoundly anti-democratic. Yet, as Arkansas Times columnist Max Brantley wrote in a blog post discussing an Atlantic report on the re-segregation of Southern public schools, there is a less-examined but equally serious consequence of the family’s interference with schools: The Waltons’ chosen approaches to school reform, namely school choice and charter schools, are contributing to the re-segregation of public schools and the potential resurgence of highly segregated “apartheid schools.”

For example, In Little Rock, the capital of the Waltons’ home state of Arkansas, Brantley notes that a new Walton-funded charter school is expected to attract wealthier students away from the local public schools, leaving behind poorer students. The family also backed state legislation that bars school districts from considering race in its decisions about student school transfers. (For over twenty years, in order to preserve the integrity of school desegregation efforts, districts were permitted to consider race in transfer decisions.)

Scores of academic studies from a variety of states and countries demonstrate that the Waltons’ approach to education is probably worsening segregation not just in Arkansas, but everywhere they are funding “education reform.” As Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, wrote for the Phi Delta Kappan, school choice programs and the expansion of charter schools drive increases in school segregation by race, ethnicity, income, and other characteristics.

In spite of this evidence, the Walton family—itself an emblem of income inequality—remains a staunch advocate of school choice and is believed to be the country’s largest funder of charter schools. Walton-funded “reform” organizations often make the audacious, arrogant claim that they are leaders in the “new civil rights movement.” Actually, their efforts risk setting civil rights back by decades.

Ending child poverty has been shown to improve children’s academic performance. Walmart, which the Walton family controls roughly half of, continues to keep many of its associates in poverty, with low wages, poor benefits and unpredictable schedules that make parenting even more difficult. If the Waltons really want to make meaningful, substantive improvements in children’s education, they could help combat child poverty by ensuring living wages for the 1.3 million Walmart workers in the United States.

Supreme Court opens the flood gates to even more Walton money in politics

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Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down certain limits on individuals’ federal campaign contributions, with a ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. The Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the cap on the aggregate amount that an individual can give directly to candidates for federal office, federal political action committees, and federal party committees.

The McCutcheon decision opens the door to dramatically increased federal election spending by wealthy, politically-motivated donors like the Waltons. A report from Demos and U.S. PIRG found that without an individual limit on campaign spending, more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from a small segment of elite donors is likely to come in through the 2020 election cycle.

With some of the deepest pockets in America, members of the Walton family have brushed up against the individual aggregate limit year after year. And the Waltons’ political priorities are well-documented. Their contributions further a personal, ideological agenda that is anti-woman, anti-environment, anti-minimum wage, and pro-gun.

Individual Walton federal contributions by year




Individual aggregate limit




Jim Walton




Lynne Walton




Alice Walton




Analysis of data from
FEC.gov and Open Secrets

Already, a small group of donors has major influence on the political process. The Sunlight Foundation reports, “More than a quarter of the nearly $6 billion in contributions from identifiable sources in the last campaign cycle came from just 31,385 individuals, a number equal to one ten-thousandth of the U.S. population…the 1% of the 1%.” In 2012, no member of the House or Senate won election without help from this group. And this small group includes some familiar names: Alice, Christy, Jim, Lynne, Rob, Tillie, and Sam R. Walton are all part of this 1% of 1%.

Federal law had set caps on the total amount individuals could contribute to all candidates as well as the total amount that individuals could give to PACs and parties. For the 2011-2012 election cycle, the caps were $46,200 to all candidates and $70,800 to all PACs and parties, which added up to an aggregate limit of $117,000, more than twice the annual income of the average American household. Without those limits, extremely wealthy donors like the Waltons will be able to spend upwards of $3.5 million every election cycle—not including super PAC contributions!—to influence the democratic process.

In 2012, over half of the contributions from Jim Walton and his wife Lynne went to two Republican committees: the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($30,800 apiece, the 2012 maximum contribution to party a committee) and the National Republican Congressional Committee ($30,400 each). Without an aggregate limit on individual contributions, the Waltons could hypothetically write many more $30,000+ checks to other national party committees in the current cycle. They’ve already gotten started: in March 2013, Jim and Lynne each wrote $30,800 checks to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. At $123,200, Jim and Lynne Walton have given more money to the Republican party this cycle than Charles and David Koch.

Walmart CEO Acknowledges Lack of Opportunities for Workers

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This article was originally posted by the Retail Justice Alliance.

Walmart-Opportunity-300x300A recent AP article by Josh Boak finds that Walmart—our country’s largest employer—does not provide its employees with enough opportunities for professional advancement or a pathway to a middle class life. As a result of the Great Recession, many older and more educated workers are turning to the retail giant as a way to support their families. And despite the retail giant’s self-promotion as a source for professional opportunity, Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., suggests that workers look elsewhere if they want to make more money and have access to better benefits.

“Some people took those jobs because they were the only ones available and haven’t been able to figure out how to move out of that,” Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press.

If Walmart employees “can go to another company and another job and make more money and develop, they’ll be better,” Simon explained. “It’ll be better for the economy. It’ll be better for us as a business, to be quite honest, because they’ll continue to advance in their economic life.”

Walmart’s sheer scale in size means that its low-wage, part-time business practices have an enormous impact on our country’s labor, business, and employment climate, and the company’s profits before people business strategy has influenced other retailers to do the same. That’s why Walmart workers across the country are taking the lead in the fight to change the way the retail giant does business.

Since its inception, former and current Walmart workers who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) have called on the retailer to publicly commit to raising wages and increasing access to full-time hours so that no worker at Walmart makes less than $25,000 per year. OUR Walmart members have also asked the retailer to stop its practice of retaliating against workers who are simply exercising their right to speak out for a better life and improved working conditions.

Too many Walmart workers like Joanna Lopez are struggling to survive on low wages with insufficient hours and are relying on taxpayer funded programs like food stamps to make ends meet.

Simon’s suggestion that many Walmart employees might be better off leaving for other jobs surprised Wal-Mart cashier Joanna Lopez. A 26-year-old single mother, she owns no car and lives with her church pastor near Fremont, Calif. She collects food stamps and receives insurance through California’s version of Medicaid.

Lopez started at Wal-Mart as a temp in August 2011, after being unable to land a hospital job with her associate’s degree. Her pay has risen from $8 an hour to $9.20, after she moved from part time to full time. The suggestion by a Wal-Mart executive that some employees might be staying too long offended her.

“To me, that’s an utter humiliation,” Lopez said. “How can you sit there and have management say that we should find other jobs because this place is ‘no bueno?’”

As the largest retail employer in the country, Walmart can and should lead the way in making sure that retail jobs are good jobs—the kind that come with good benefits and wages for all workers. If Walmart would listen to—and respect—its workers, it could help to rebuild our country’s economy and strengthen America’s middle class.

Legal Disclaimer: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees. Judges have preliminarily enjoined non-Associates who are part of the UFCW International or OUR Walmart from entering Walmart property in Arkansas (read the order here), Florida (read the order here), Texas (read the order here) and Maryland (read the order here). A California judge has enjoined non-associate agents of the UFCW and OUR Walmart from engaging in certain activities inside CA Walmart stores. Click here for a copy of the order.