Managers were told to inform workers that the app wasn’t made by Walmart and that it might be intended to collect workers’ personal information.
“There is no way to know if the details this group is pushing are correct,” Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said in a statement. “Our people are smart and see this for what it is: an attempt by an outside group to collect as much personal and private information as possible.”
What Does the App Do?
The WorkIt app, which recently became available on the Google Play Store for Android devices, allows users to get answers to questions about workplace policies and worker rights. The app uses both user-generated insight from current and former employees and artificial intelligence, via IBM’s Watson, to answer queries.
The app provides an alternative to WalmartOne, the company’s site for employees, which offers company information as well as pay stubs and has a chat function.
“It is really hard to get time to access the computers at work to look things up,” OUR Walmart member Betsy Marler told USA Today. “This puts it in your hand and you can use it any time you want to.”
Walmart vs. Labor Organizers
OUR Walmart is an offshoot of United Food and Commercial Workers International, which The Wall Street Journal notes “has tried unsuccessfully for years to organize workers at Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores.” The organization, which split from the union last year, does not have collective bargaining rights but does claim to have thousands of members. Exactly how many is up for debate.
“OUR Walmart’s membership seems to have peaked at about 5,000, in part because of the company’s opposition to the group,” writes Susan Berfield at Bloomberg. “But OUR Walmart says it has a network of some 100,000 employees who’ve participated in 1 million conversations on Facebook about workplace issues since 2012. The group claims credit for Walmart’s decision last year to raise hourly wages, offer more predictable schedules and hours, and begin to reconsider some of its leave policies.”
Walmart claims the choice to raise wages was a business decision. Certainly, the results seem to indicate that it was a smart move on the company’s part: by early 2016, the percentage of U.S. stores hitting customer-service rating targets was 75 percent, compared to 16 percent in 2014.
Last year, The Atlantic revealed how Walmart has discouraged union participation over the years — while still adhering to the letter of the law — with training videos, PowerPoint presentations, and a 1997 document called The Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free “suggesting that unions were money-grubbing outfits caring little about workers’ welfare.”
But OUR Walmart says unionization is not its goal.
“OUR Walmart is not currently seeking to unionize Walmart,” OUR Walmart co-director Dan Schlademan told USA Today. “Our focus is to continue to build OUR Walmart and use collective action to create change at Walmart.”
Tell Us What You Think
Do you use the WorkIt app — and if so, what’s your take on it? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.