After years of financially backing the anti-Walmart group OURWalmart, the United Food and Commercial Workers has officially pulled the plug on the organization. In a recent financial filing with the Labor Department, the union said it was no longer subsidizing the group.
"For part of 2015, the UFCW had a subsidiary organization maintained in Washington DC named the Organization United For Respect at Walmart (OURWalmart) whose purpose as stated in the bylaws is the betterment of the conditions of the current and former associates at Walmart Stores,Inc., within the meaning of Section 501(c)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code, and to make Walmart a better corporate citizen. That subsidiary relationship ended in May 2015," according to the union's fiscal year 2015 report. The document, known as an LM-2, was dated March 16.
It is not entirely clear what has become of the UFCW-run organization, which was the main vehicle for most of the various protests, marches and other events over the last several years that opposed the retailer's policies. The declaration would appear to suggest it was dissolved, but a UFCW spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
OURWalmart presented itself as an employee organization, however few Walmart employees participated in most events, which were largely populated by union members, civil rights groups and other liberal activists. UFCW has long sought to organize the Arkansas-based retailer, which is non-union and employs an estimated 1.3 million people. The union's members work at some of Walmart's top rivals like Giant and Kroger.
The union's declaration does shed light on an incident last September when two former UFCW organizers who had previously run OURWalmart, Dan Schlademan and Andrea Dehlendorf, announced that they were "relaunching" it as an independent group. However, the UFCW-affiliated version maintained at the time that the others had "split off" from it and UFCW had been "unwavering" in its support.
When reporters asked Schlademan and Dehlendorf about this during a September press conference, the event was abruptly cut short. The union's federal filling now states that it had in fact stopped funding OURWalmart four months prior.
The split followed reports of internal friction at UFCW over the anti-Walmart campaign. Anthony Perrone, who succeeded Joe Hansen as UFCW president in 2014, was reportedly an internal critic, arguing the union had spent far too much on it without ever organizing a single Walmart store. UFCW has not disclosed how much it spent on the effort, but in August the pro-union publication In These Times put it at between $7 to 8 million annually since 2010.
Perrone reportedly cut funding for both OURWalmart and MakingChange at Walmart by at least half and fired Schlademan and Dehlendorf, who had been directing the campaign. Schlademan and Dehlendorf then organized the relaunched version of OURWalmart. Their organization did not respond to a request for comment.
UFCW has continued to maintain the original website for OURWalmart, forrespect.org, as well as one for a sister group, Making Change At Walmart, at makingchangeatwalmart.org. Forrespect.org does not appear to have been updated since November.
The relaunched group, which remains active, uses the same name and logo but operates from the domain name united4forrespect.org. It is backed by several liberal activist groups such as Demos, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Color of Change and Jobs With Justice.
A spokesman for Walmart declined to comment.