United for Respect (formerly known as the Organization United for Respect, as well as OUR Walmart) was a publicity campaign created by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW). United for Respect was formed in 2010 to create pressure on retailer Walmart (which critics suggested was intended to lead to unionization of the company) by creating a purported “workers’ rights” organization comprised of its employees.
The organization was a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) and conducted several public relations demonstrations before being largely defunded by the UFCW in 2015. The effectiveness of the organization and its campaigns has been questioned by other left-wing union organizers.
United for Respect was formed in 2010 by the United Food and Commercial Workers, which had long been targeting Walmart as it is one of the larger corporations and employers in America. The campaign first saw publicity when it organized a demonstration at a Walmart shareholder meeting at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. The union campaign sought to compel Walmart to enact a $15 minimum wage, give part time workers more hours, and provide better healthcare. Critics suggested that the campaign was a front for unionizing Walmart under the UFCW, but the union disclaimed an organizational motive in an agreement with the Obama administration-led National Labor Relations Board.
The group also held protests and demonstrations on the busiest in-person shopping day of the year during “Black Friday” sales that drew small numbers of workers. Even labor union-aligned liberals have noted that the number of employees United For Respect has organized is quite small and possibly insignificant compared to the 1.5 million employees of the company.
United for Respect drew criticism from labor union critics and Walmart for being a unionization front “worker center.” Organizing as an informal “worker center” rather than a formal labor union allows the group to avoid laws regulating unionization activities and union finances.
In response to Walmart’s claim that United for Respect (OUR Walmart) is a union front, Andy Kroll of the left-wing magazine Mother Jones wrote that, “As for the union front claim, Walmart’s got a point: OUR Walmart was established by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, though UFCW officials insist it’s not a steppingstone for unionizing.”
United for Respect (OUR Walmart) also faced criticism for its aggressive intimidation tactics. Glenn Spencer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that “The UFCW-OUR Walmart protests can involve dozens of people descending on Walmart stores, damaging merchandise, harassing shoppers, provoking arrests and bullying workers. They have increasingly drawn the ire of judges and law enforcement. In one case in Michigan, OUR Walmart was charged with following a Walmart employee into a bathroom and harassing her (a charge that the group quickly settled).”
Along with criticisms from Walmart, many pro-union voices on the left criticized United for Respect’s effectiveness and questioned if it made an impact on Walmart phasing in a $10 minimum wage or launching a program to move more employees to full-time positions. Furthermore, a leadership change at United for Respect’s parent organization, UFCW, left the new union president to question why the union had poured so much money into the campaign without gaining any new members.