Lukas Z's Blog

Sam Walton on Unions

I’m still reading “Made in America” by Sam Walton. (Reading it slowly, as I have reduced my book reading time in favor of other things.) And he of course reminds me of Jeff Bezos and Amazon, as one is the mentor of the other. Anyway, as you may know, Amazon is pretty much anti-union. And that gives them a bit of an evil anti-worker reputation. But I find Sam Walton’s view on unions interesting. And why he fought to prevent them at Walmart.

For him, a union is a kind of lifeform that lives off the fact that workers and management don’t agree. And once you have them, they will, so to speak, do whatever it takes to survive, meaning, the workers and management will keep not agreeing.

(I’m loosely quoting.)

Anyway, instead, they came up with a profit share program in which employees, he calls them “associates”, can buy stock, or get bonuses in the form of stocks. Walmart stock being what it is for the last 40 years or so, means that a lot of people, including sales clerks and truck drivers, became millionaires.

In defense of unions, it seems that the threat of unionizing pushed Sam and the rest of management in that direction. So an union, even though never founded, had a part in their profit sharing scheme, it seems.

Or maybe that’s not true. And they just saw that by motivating their “associates” with a share of the profits would motivate them quite well to serve the customers even better. And serving the customer well is the number one reason that made them so successful after all.

I wonder. Can social democratic parties pivot towards support for such schemes? By making it easier and advantageous for companies to make their workers partial owners?

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