Unions seek Wal-Mart probe over election law: report

Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:43am EDT

Wal-Mart shareholders are silhouetted against a video screen Wal-Mart Shareholders Meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 6, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Wal-Mart shareholders are silhouetted against a video screen Wal-Mart Shareholders Meeting in Fayetteville, Arkansas, June 6, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

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(Reuters) - Labor groups are requesting an investigation into whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) violated federal election laws by telling employees that electing Democrats would lead to passage of legislation making it easier to unionize companies, The Wall Street Journal said citing a letter.

The groups are asking the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the company "made prohibited corporate expenditures" by organizing meetings across the country to warn employees that a Democratic president would back legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which the company opposes, the paper said.

American Rights at Work, a worker advocacy group, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations and WakeUpWalMart.com, a labor-backed group, are filing the complaint and are likely to deliver the letter as early as Thursday, the paper said.

The complaint cites as its source an Aug 1. article in the Journal that reported the company held meetings with thousands of store managers and department supervisors across the country to discuss the legislation.

The groups believe the retail giant's statements amount to advocating the defeat of Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the November election, the paper said.

Wal-Mart "adapted their unionbusting tactics to influence our federal election system," Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director of American Rights at Work, was quoted as saying by the Journal.

Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar told the paper that the company's policies are clear and that anyone representing the company and telling associates how to vote were "wrong and acting without approval."

"We welcome the FEC looking into this, because we are confident they will find what we have known all along, that we did nothing wrong," Tovar was quoted by the paper as saying.

A Wal-Mart spokesman told Reuters that Tovar's comments were accurate but did not comment further.

(Reporting by Ajay Kamalakaran in Bangalore; Editing by Ben Tan) ((ajay.kamalakaran@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780; outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5800; Reuters Messaging: ajay.kamalakaran.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net)

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