Have you ever felt like you're being watched? It's creepy.

Image by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.


Now imagine it's happening at work, and it's your boss who's watching. So is their boss. And their boss' boss. And the company lawyers. And probably the board of directors.

They're all tuned in to you.

It's not because of your job performance. I mean, let's be real: You obviously deserve a raise. Or a trophy, at the least.

Strangely, they're watching you because of your valuesspecifically those having to do with what you believe makes a "fair" workplace.

If you work at Walmart, it may not be in your imagination.

In 2012, as Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, prepared for the holiday shopping bonanza, activists across the country, including some of the company's front-line employees, geared up for protests.

Their goal was (and still is) to pressure the company for non-poverty wages and benefits — you know, the typical signs of work with dignity.

Walmart: Always low. Photos by Matt Hamilton/Neon Tommy/Flickr.

They also want Walmart management to stop intimidating employees who speak up on workplace issues. The company, in case you weren't aware, is a notorious union-buster.

Walmart's alleged "retaliatory" acts against employees who protested has become the subject of a labor law inquiry.

The initial details, assembled for a National Labor Relations Board hearing, have been revealed in a more than 4,000-word exposé by Bloomberg Business.

No decision has been reached yet, but a lot of information has been uncovered on how Walmart handles situations in which workers attempt to exercise their right to organize for a reasonable voice in their work lives.

Here are six discoveries:

1. They have a hotline for managers to report union activity.


Image by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.

In an interview with CBS Evening News, Walmart spokesman David Tovar called the protests "another union publicity stunt," implying the company didn't see the protesters as a threat.

Despite that, Walmart beefed up staffing for a dedicated labor hotline for store managers to report activity so executives could pre-empt organizing efforts among unsatisfied workers.

2. They created a "playbook" for stopping union drives.


This is not from Walmart's union-busting playbook. But it makes just as much sense. Image by opensource.com/Flickr (altered).

The document, creatively titled "A Manager's Toolbox To Remaining Union Free," psychs up managers with lines like, "As a member of Wal-Mart's management team, you are our first line of defense against unionization."

To be clear, it's not because the company has a problem with unions: "We are not anti-union; we are pro-associate."

(Unless, of course, their associates want a union.)

3. They form special teams to deal with disgruntled workers.

Image by RadioKirk/Wikimedia Commons (altered).

At the faintest whiff of workers uniting in common purpose, Walmart mobilizes special "Delta teams" to stop union activity in its tracks.

Members of the labor rights group OUR Walmart have reported executives from the company's Bentonville, Arkansas-based headquarters showing up at stores on a moment's notice, armed with talking points and legalese to derail organizing efforts.

4. They hired a defense contractor to spy on activist workers.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

Walmart hired defense contractor Lockheed Martin to gather intelligence on activist workers. Specifically, they use the contractor's data analysis tool LM Wisdom.

According to Lockheed Martin's website, the tool "monitors and analyzes rapidly changing open source intelligence data … [that] has the power to incite organized movements, riots and sway political outcomes."


Emails produced in discovery for the NLRB hearing include social media monitoring updates from Lockheed Martin. Favianna Rodriguez, an artist and activist (not a Walmart employee) whose tweets were among the LM updates, told Bloomberg, "We're artists, not ISIS."

5. They paint protesters as terrorist threats to gain access to federal resources.

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

In 2013, protests were planned at the company's headquarters to coincide with a high-profile shareholder meeting. 14,000 people were expected to attend the meeting, including shareholders, investors, the Walton family, and even Elton John.

When company executives heard members of the Occupy movement were expected to join the protests, they enlisted the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. No details have been released on the nature of the collaboration.

But in a show of how cozy Walmart may be with the feds, they a hired former FBI officer as their head of global security.

6. They will hurt many for the rightful actions of a few.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

In 1999, a small group of butchers at a Walmart location in Jacksonville, Texas, voted to unionize — it was their legal right, and they democratically decided it would serve their best interests.

Walmart's response didn't just hurt the newly organized meat cutters. They shut down every meat counter in every U.S. store and switched to only pre-packaged cuts.

Of course, the company wouldn't admit that it was about the union. Walmart spokeswoman Jessica Moser told the Associated Press, "Our decision to expand case-ready meat has nothing to do with what went on in Jacksonville."

This isn't just a problem for Walmart workers.

Again, we're talking about the largest private employer in the United States. Low-wage retail workers are the most common workers in the nation, and Walmart sets the tempo for how they're treated.

Not terrorists. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

The nation is at a crossroads, and our choice is between corporate domination or economic freedom for millions of people. It's a David and Goliath story if there ever were one. Who are you rooting for?

If you stand with Walmart workers, sign OUR Walmart's petition calling for consistent full-time scheduling and a $15 minimum wage.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

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