Walmart Hired Defense Contractor Lockheed Martin to Spy on Its Employees

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Walmart hired global security giant Lockheed Martin a few years ago to monitor activism in its massive workforce, according to new documents. The defense contractor tracked employees’ social media and reported protest participation to the retail giant.

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, provided Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, with intelligence-gathering and surveillance services in 2012, according to a lengthy report by Bloomberg Businessweek. The news has emerged just before Black Friday protests by a union-funded group called OUR Walmart, the report claims. Participants demand higher wages and reliable scheduling for Walmart employees.

While Walmart publicly dismissed the demonstrations as “just another union publicity stunt,” their subsequent actions indicate that they took it seriously. In addition to hiring Lockheed Martin to keep tabs on employees’ social media feeds, the companies ranked stores by labor activity and monitored employees who were known to be involved in labor activism, according to Bloomberg.

The defense contractor offers a product called LM Wisdom, which is marketed as a tool for fighting drug and human trafficking, but which Walmart used  to track employees in 2012 and 2013. Lockheed Martin analysts would follow the Twitter and Facebook feeds of workers and then report information about labor activism back to the company’s corporate headquarters. The defense contractor also put together a map of likely routes for five “Ride for Respect” bus caravans that were sent to HQ to demonstrate.

In one of the documents obtained, when asked about the company’s relationship with Lockheed Martin, Walmart Senior Vice President of Labor Relations Karen Ann Cassey said that the company was even “partnering with the FBI/the Joint Terrorism Task Force” to monitor protesters that planned to go to the company’s headquarters, saying that similar protests have become violent.

Walmart didn’t comment on the specific allegations in the Bloomberg story, but sent a statement via email arguing that the measures had been taken to protect their shoppers, employees and business.

“Unfortunately, there are occasions when outside groups attempt to deliberately disrupt our business and on behalf of our customers and associates we take action accordingly,” the statement reads.

Bloomberg retrieved the information on Lockheed Martin’s labor-monitoring services by acquiring documents ahead of a National Labor Relations Board hearing. The case concerns Walmart’s alleged history retaliation against employees who protested against the retailer.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced that its company-wide minimum wage would go from $9 in 2015 and $10.  While OUR Walmart touts this wage increase as a victory, they remain steadfast in their demand for a minimum of $15 an hour. The group will be protesting this Black Friday for the fourth year in a row.

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  • RandyJ/ProudSurvivor

    I wonder if the results of LM’s reports had anything to do with the sudden and mysterious closings of Walmart stores? I don’t agree with spying in any way, but unionization would surely hurt, if not kill, Walmart’s pricing structure. Sometimes, the best way to treat an infection is to cut it out.

    • SP_88

      That makes sense. Wal-Mart has always been a very brutal retailer when it comes to the price they will pay for merchandise. Some companies have been forced to run a whole different line of products that are made much more cheaply than their regular products just so they can get their products onto Wal-Mart shelves. Their profit margins are much slimmer when dealing with Wal-Mart as opposed to other retailers. So it makes sense that they would be equally brutal with their employees and their wages.
      And I wouldn’t put it past them to close down some of their stores just to get rid of some of the more unionized employees.

  • way2inform

    Whatever happened to the handful of closed wal marts? Their new plumbing all worked out yet?

    • Lorungee

      They couldn’t find a non-union plumber.

  • RE

    Hearing too many bad things about Walmart. Not only will I NEVER work there, I will NEVER go shopping there. Fu ( k all of you…

    • whiteberry

      Good! I’ve been boycotting them for about 10 years now…

  • crabcake

    If you have to spy on people, then you are a suspicious person for a reason. Do right and things will most likely go well for you.

    • Ernst Iliov Stavro Blofeld

      In a culture of changing mores and a data shelf life of forever your do-right today may be a capital crime tomorrow.

  • Lorungee

    Corporate spying at it’s best.

  • How Not To Play The Game

    There must be a special suite in Hell for the Waltons. Good for them. I’ll take my pallet on a cloud. That will work for me.

  • How Not To Play The Game

    The worthless crap is not worth the low prices. Unless that is the standard that one has for themselves. I do not see the bargain in having to buy things two or three times to get one that works properly. The math just does not work for me. Walmart’s market share comes from the fact that most of the EBT transactions on the planet happen at Wal-Mart.
    The owners are worth billions and billions.

  • RebelPatriot

    The alternative news sites that did not report about the arrest warrants issued by Spain on Benjamin Nutty yahoo and some other Officials for the murder of people on a humanitarian mission is truly breath taking. I can count 3. This isn’t one. It was on RT last week, zero hedge and before it’s news. Sad.

  • Ernst Iliov Stavro Blofeld

    As a practical matter I wouldn’t mind hearing about how LM went about it’s intelligence gathering. Was it non-locked down accounts they monitored? Did they have a information purchasing agreement with social media providers? Did “the people” practice poor cyber hygiene and not delete histories and cookies regularly?

  • Ken, Megapolis

    Yes friends I was a fool. I showed my passport to Facebook to prove it was me after failing that foto ID test where you must guess your friends. A few months later the same passport got posted on some clear fake accounts. How? Unsure. But please use me as a guinea pig to see how widespread ID theft is. Do not. THIS IS IMPORTANT. DO NOT SHOW YOUR PASSPORT TO FACEBOOK UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.
    Does the bank ask for such security measures? Yes, bring the passport and have it scanned. Facebook ask you to even cover up information they don’t need. What the hell is that???
    Help me God.

    • sunshine

      Why didn’t you just make a new Facebook account??

      • Ken, Megapolis

        Why didn’t I just walk away from FB?
        Since when does Disqus ask for your passport? Or google, or Apple, or Microsoft?
        I was informed by a Spanish FB friend called Miss S how in Spain you must provide your passport to buy a mobile phone and yes it gets scanned.
        Now I know why this is done. It is to discredit dissent, never, yes NEVER stop a terrorist dead in his tracks.
        This experience leaves a very sour taste in my mouth and I only ate 2 small cakes for Sunday Lunch.
        I issue this warning so that others may benefit from my sad experiences.
        The person who committed said identity theft is called James Carruthers.
        Please pass this on.

        • sunshine

          Well yes but I just assumed you wanted a Facebook pretty badly to show them your passport!

  • Rebecca

    Is this legal? When you get hired at certain companies requiring a clearance, you have to sign extensive authorizations to get deep checking. All this for crappie minimum wage jobs? Thank God and Greyhound I am retired. Fascism reigns.

  • savagenation

    The only way multinationals may ever get the message about privacy is if their execs/boards personal and secret info is spread all over the net.
    Anyone who is engaged in spying on Americans, is BY DEFINITION is a DOMESTIC SPY and should be tried for sedition or treason and punished accordingly.