Just in time for the holidays, Walmart employees are being lured to download a smartphone-based social media app aimed at advocating for better pay and labor benefits. But Walmart reps say it is advocating against employees logging on to the platform.
The WorkIt app was developed by labor advocate organization OUR Walmart, with the help of New York City–based software company Quadrant 2, most known for its digital products, including one for the American Civil Liberties Union. Currently available for Android devices, the app allows employees to socialize questions related to workplace and legal rights. The app, which was initially tested with 200 users, incorporates IBM’s Watson technology for a chatbot-like interaction that culls and constructs a growing list of answers to employee questions.
Walmart store managers have been told by higher-ups to make clear that the app is a scheme to pull the employees’ personal information, specifically their name, email, phone number, ZIP code, job title and store number.
At the same time, the app is a separate extension for what is naturally taking place on other platforms like Facebook and Reddit. More than 20,000 members strong, there is a Facebook group dedicated to Walmart employees, who swap similar stories, experience, questions and answers.
OUR Walmart may not have collective bargaining rights, but does allegedly have thousands of members and has been attempting to organize the Arkansas company’s employees for years. Moving from traditional, in-person protests on big shopping days such as Black Friday, this is OUR Walmart’s new attempt at inciting workers to band together. And that’s why the app is unique: It allows workers to chat about personal workplace experiences and trade advice.
Ironically, as it turns out, Wal-Mart says it is soon launching its own inter-business social media app related to human resources issues and questions.