International,  Stateside

Hugo Chavez and Wal-Mart versus those damn unions

At Caracas Chronicles, Quico links to a video of Hugo Chavez blathering about this and that, but takes special note of this outburst, aimed at a camera operator for the state-owned VTV television channel:

Chávez: “Check it out, they get eight hours’ pay for each overtime hour worked! And if you want to change that, they raise a stink! Some of them make threats! That means, for every hour they work on a Sunday they get paid for eight! Because that’s signed into what they call the…whatchamacallit?” (sp: lo que llaman…¿cómo es?)

Voice off-camera: “Collective bargaining agreement.”

Chávez: “The collective bargaining agreement…on the government’s dime!”

Now I don’t know if it’s true that VTV camera operators get octuple overtime pay. But if part of their job is pointing cameras at Chavez hour after hour, they certainly deserve it.

Further, who does Chavez think signed the “whatchamacallit” with their union? It was his own government. (And is it revealing that Chavez– still a hero among some elements of the Left– seems so unfamiliar with, and contemptuous of, the functions of a trade union that he calls a collective bargaining agreement a “whatchamacallit”?)

Read Quico’s entire take on it.

Meanwhile, in what may or may not be an unrelated development, The Wall Street Journal reports:

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they’ll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies — including Wal-Mart.

In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.

According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.

The actions by Wal-Mart — the nation’s largest private employer — reflect a growing concern among big business that a reinvigorated labor movement could reverse years of declining union membership. That could lead to higher payroll and health costs for companies already being hurt by rising fuel and commodities costs and the tough economic climate.

The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don’t specifically tell attendees how to vote in November’s election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.

Now why would Wal-Mart employees (or “associates,” as the company likes to call them) want to unionize? It might have something to do with their poverty-level wages and the fact that the company-provided health insurance is so restricted and expensive that less than half of all employees have it (and for most of those that do, it’s totally inadequate).

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that Wal-Mart’s p.r. and government-relations chief, Leslie Dach, is a prominent Democrat who served as communications director for Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign (widely considered one of the most incompetent presidential campaigns in modern history).

Dach was hired by Wal-Mart specifically to give the company cover with Democrats. It is the hope of Wal-Mart’s adversaries that Dach brings the same luck to Wal-Mart that he brought to the Dukakis campaign, but so far, Wal-Mart, aided by naive environmentalists who take the company’s ostensible commitment to going green at face value, appears to be escaping the wrath of Democrats this year.