Walmart spied on workers' Tweets, blogs before protests

Defence contractor Lockheed Martin provided intelligence services before Black Friday

Walmart has recruited aerospace, defence and security concern Lockheed Martin to comb open source intelligence in the lead up to Black Friday union protests, Bloomberg reports.

The super-colossal retailer has a difficult history with unions and engaged the defence contractor to keep tabs on its employees in the run up to the national fire sale.

Organisers at workers' rights advocate OUR Walmart were encouraging staff to join its movement to protest against what it claims are poor wage conditions at the retailer that force some workers to rely on supplementary government assistance for basic clothing, food, and housing.

The allegations, found in more than 1000 pages of emails, reports, and testimony produced in discovery ahead of a National Labor Relations Board meeting between the OUR Walmart effort and the retail giant, and handed to Bloomberg Business Week.

Lockheed Martin sells the LM Wisdom open source intelligence service but it is not known if Walmart uses the product.

Monitoring activity through Walmart's so-called Black Friday Delta Team produced intelligence about OUR Walmart union activity including planned disruption at various Walmart stores.

This included a map of how protestors on five buses would be travelling from their locations to Walmart stores.

“With some assistance from LM [Lockheed Martin] we have created the attached map to track the caravan movements and approximate participants,” emails show risk program senior manager telling colleagues.

When the team created in the lead up to the recent sales blitz learnt of potential involvement of members of the Occupy sit-in movement, the retailer contacted the FBI.

The monitoring allowed the company to stay ahead of some planned protests, foiling some disruption efforts and ensuring management would report news of union efforts.

A Walmart executive summary after the Black Friday sales found picketing was down from 214 stores last year to 203, flash mobs plummeted from 76 to 10, and flyers fell from 131 to 96. ®

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