September 30, 2005

More on the WM Workers Association

The union that's not a union keeps drawing media attention:

About 250 employees and former employees from 40 central Florida stores have joined the fledgling Wal-Mart Workers Association, spurred by what they say is a reduction of hours and schedule changes recently that may jeopardize health care benefits for some. Organizers say the word-of-mouth campaign is attracting 15 to 20 new members every week.
If you remember the last article about them, from three weeks ago, you'd notice that their membership growth is slowing:
The association says it has nearly 200 current and former Wal-Mart workers and is growing by 30 workers a week. Members pay dues of $5 a month. In Florida, its membership includes workers from 30 stores in the Tampa, Orlando and St. Petersburg areas, and it is also seeking to enlist Wal-Mart employees in Texas.
What are former employees doing in this organization?

Posted by Kevin at 2:08 PM

September 19, 2005

Cranbrook WM T&L Goes Union

Just the tire and lube:

BURNABY – The B.C. Labour Relations Board (BCLRB) has certified the workers at the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express (TLE) in Cranbrook, British Columbia after a majority of the workers there voted to unionize with United Food and Commercial Workers Canada....

The Cranbrook Wal-Mart was certified after a majority of the shop's employees voted to unionize. B.C. labour laws allow the Board to certify a workplace if a majority of the employees within a defined workplace vote to unionize.

Certification notice here. How many workers are we talking about?

Posted by Kevin at 12:20 PM

August 19, 2005

Union Network International

The Guardian notes potential international unionization efforts:

The fight to unionise Wal-Mart workers will shift to a new front next week when union leaders meet to discuss plans for organising employees in countries including Britain, Brazil, Argentina and Germany.

Forming a strategy will take centre stage at the annual congress of the Union Network International (UNI) in Chicago, a federation based in Europe that represents 15 million workers around the world.

Wal-Mart is the world's largest employer with 1.6 million workers and has become a focus for trade unions. In Britain it owns the Asda chain, which has recently had a skirmish with workers at a distribution centre in the north-east.

For the gazillionth time, Wal-Mart is NOT "the world's largest employer", regardless of your feelings on the matter.

UPDATE: Here's more from Reuters.

Posted by Kevin at 7:25 AM

August 10, 2005

Don't Shrug off Wake-Up Wal-Mart

Alan Murray writes that Wake-Up Wal-Mart is not to be ignored:

Shrugging off "Wake-Up Wal-Mart" would be a mistake, for two reasons. First, the breakup of organized labor may have a rejuvenating effect on unions like the UFCW, which will need to show success. Just as competition sharpens the focus of business, it is likely to do the same for labor.

Second, the new campaign marks a sharp change in strategy for organized labor -- one that could increase its effectiveness. The unions have been losing on the shop floor for decades, and in recent years, their political clout has waned as well. Now they are borrowing a page from media-and-Internet-savvy groups that have scored surprising David-and-Goliath successes by attacking companies where they are most vulnerable: their public reputations. Whether it is Greenpeace going after the oil companies, M�decins Sans Fronti�res targeting pharmaceutical companies or the Rainforest Action Network banging on big banks, these scrappy "nongovernmental organizations" have shown that big, global corporations will go to surprising lengths to keep their images clean. The unions hope Wal-Mart will do the same.

Posted by Kevin at 12:19 AM

August 8, 2005

A Different Perspective

MacLeans offers a different perspective than one normally reads about when Wal-Mart is the topic. I find this quote particularly interesting:

The plight of Robertson's own union illustrates why. Over the past three years, his local has lost 3,000 members -- a decline of more than 10 per cent -- and he says Wal-Mart is the number 1 reason for it. Unionized stores have had to cut staff and wages to compete, and other companies have increased efforts to prevent unionization.

The UFCW's membership crisis is but one example of a larger trend unfolding throughout the continent, as traditionally union-heavy industrial companies downsize, and as mostly non-union sectors like services, technology and retail become a much larger portion of the economy. The same phenomenon is happening in Canada, where private sector unionization has fallen from 26 per cent in the early 1970s to just 18 per cent in 2003. In short, organized labour is dying a slow death and its financial strength and political influence are waning as a result.

The fight over Wal-Mart is really a fight to halt organized labour's gradual death spiral. If the unions are to turn the tide, they need to be in retail, and if they are going to get into retail, they have to get into Wal-Mart -- union leaders themselves acknowledge as much. As Stuart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, America's umbrella organization for trade unions, told Fortune last year, "If we want to survive, labour has no choice but to organize Wal-Mart."

I have been meaning to look more closely at grocery employment across the country. It would seem that organized labor's struggles in the grocery business began long before Wal-Mart ever began selling produce and Fruit Loops. I first noticed this by chance in my local grocery store that there were only a few check out lines open anymore. This is, of course, becuase technology has been added over the years to speed up the process.

There was a time when paying higher wages meant faster checkouts and more sales. When everything was done by hand somebody with a good memory would be able remember prices and codes. Scanners have made smarter people less necessary. They are simply being replaced by machines. Anectdotally, my impression is that a fair amount of grocery workers could find employment at equal or higher pay than their union wages. In my local Wal-Mart, a fair amount of the people I wouldn't say the same thing( and note the word some, I generally find people at WM to be good. it's one of the reasons I like to shop there, but I have run across some I wonder how they managed to get a job). This doesn't mean this is true across the country as some people live in towns with limited employment opportunities and I'm talking about L.A.

Posted by Bob at 11:19 PM

June 27, 2005

The Law as Bludgeon

It seems that many of ALP's readers wholly support unions and union activities against Wal-Mart in the US, Canada, and beyond North America. Some readers may think that I'm just misguided; others believe me a dangerous and ignorant monster, especially since my distrust for unions appears one-sided. But my distrust is not for collective bargaining itself, but for the bludgeon-like nature of the law governing employer-employee relations, and how union leaders have figuratively incorporated the bludgeon into their negotiations, rhetoric, and PR.

I'd like to offer somebody else's explanation (taken completely out of his very different context), why I think current law regarding union-certification and arbitration is not "fair" (if I may use such a word intelligibly):

There is an enormous chasm between a situation in which both parties in a dispute seek arbitration from a third party, and a situation in which one party in the dispute is able to force the other party to accept the decision of a third party arbiter. In the first case, the two parties have mutually agreed to let someone else settle their differences. In the second case, there is no such agreement....

All that is necessary to provide the pretext for judicial review is to have one single plaintiff ask the court to decide whether the court should decide -- and each time the court decides that, yes, it should decide, it simultaneously decides that, no, the people cannot decide.

The law presents a pretense of mutual agreement, when in fact none exists. In other words, unions want to use the power of law to create "rights" -- to form a union itself, to a living wage, to a share of profits, to determine hours of work -- that would not exist in a society of mutual agreement on the terms of exchange.

Posted by Kevin at 9:01 AM

May 31, 2005

Andy Stern Challenges John Sweeny

It is my opinion Wal-Mart is probably better off if the SEIU doesn't separate from the AFL-CIO:

"We need to make far-reaching changes and have a leader committed to such changes, and that leader is not John Sweeney," said Andrew L. Stern, president of the service employees union, which has more than 1.7 million members.

Mr. Stern seeks to push Mr. Sweeney into retirement, but Mr. Sweeney is digging in - and is voicing anger with Mr. Stern, a one-time prot�g�, saying his divisiveness is weakening the movement.

But Mr. Stern's critique of Mr. Sweeney has strong support from four other unions - the Teamsters, the laborers, the food and commercial workers, and Unite Here, which represents hotel, restaurant and apparel workers. The five dissident unions represent more than a third of the membership of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Why should Wal-Mart want to keep Mr. Stern down? He's been effective:
Mr. Stern, whose union has added 600,000 workers in the past decade, has repeatedly said that if the A.F.L.-C.I.O. does not embrace enough change, he will seek to build something better, presumably an organization outside the federation that would seek to attract workers and sympathetic young people.

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

May 4, 2005

The Jonquiere Closing

ALP has covered the unionization and closing of the Jonquiere store. As our last entry, we link to an NPR story with the following caption on a photograph:

Jean Tremblay serves as the mayor overseeing Jonquiere. "We don�t like Wal-Mart anymore," he says.
H/T: Brian St. Pierre

UPDATE Can Wal-Mart be blamed for destroying jobs when it opens stores AND when it closes them? Wake-Up Wal-Mart thinks so, but I don't, and said so in their comments:

If you're saying that by closing a store, Wal-Mart eliminates as many jobs as it has people working in the stores, then when Wal-Mart opens a store and hires 250 people, it must be creating 250 jobs.

This logic runs counter to much of the anti-WM argument that all Wal-Mart does when opening a new store is substitute lower-paying jobs for higher-paying jobs.

If this latter argument is true, won't the recently fired people eventually find higher-paying work? Isn't WM making them better off in the long run?

Just asking.

Posted by Kevin at 2:28 PM

April 18, 2005

Stakeholders in Unions

Russ Nelson argues briefly and amusingly that if business corporations are to give "stakeholders" decision-making authority, then union corporations should give non-union "stakeholders" the same form of authority over their activities:

Thus, I claim that I am a stakeholder of the Communications Workers of America (just to pick on one of them), and the next time they vote on a union contract, I get to vote on it too.

How about it UFCW, would you like the entire population of cities to vote on whether or not Wal-Mart should be unionized, or whether a union should be disbanded entirely? Would that not be more "democratic"?

Posted by Kevin at 1:31 PM

April 2, 2005

UFCW Fails to Unionize Brossard WM

Via WM's press release:

MISSISSAUGA, ON, April 1 /CNW/ - For the fifth time in less than two years, Wal-Mart Canada associates have voted No to being unionized. Wal-Mart associates in Brossard, Quebec, today voted in a democratic, secret-ballot vote against being unionized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW).
Today's vote result follows a clear and consistent pattern of Wal-Mart Canada associates repeatedly voting against union representation when given the chance to express their views in a democratic, secret-ballot process. To date, no Canadian Wal-Mart store has voted in favour of unionization when given the chance to participate in a democratic, secret-ballot vote.
Notice how WM uses "democratic" in a different sense than the UFCW. Local 501 of the UFCW has its own press release:
With the help of our activists, we will help convince the employees to resist the fear campaign that Wal-Mart organizes for such a vote. They should no longer have to fear the Wal-Mart special envoys who come to intimidate them at our information meetings, like the one held last Wednesday they were heckled by Wal-Mart managers from Ste-Hyacinthe and elsewhere. The multinational Wal-Mart claims to be democratic, but why doesn't it allow people to get information to make an informed and democratic choice?" asked Mr. Bellemare.
See also the article in the National Post:
Neither side disclosed what percentage of votes was for or against the union.
I guess that neither WM nor the union believes in informing people properly about their "democratic" elections.

Posted by Kevin at 6:24 AM

March 25, 2005

AFL-CIO To Hold Counter Media-Event

Mark your calendars; on April 5 and 6, you can attend the pro-WM media circus, or the anti-WM media circus:

While details about the events were not immediately available, a person familiar with the matter said that the AFL-CIO "started talks" this week about possible actions its members could take at the conference, set for April 5-6 in Bentonville, Ark., or other cities.

Additionally, other North American labor unions are pondering ways to make their presence felt as they seek to draw the attention of the gathered media to their grievances against Wal-Mart (Research).

Wal-Mart, whose 1.5 million employees make it the nation's largest private-sector non-union employer, has been hit by for dozens of lawsuits against it alleging wage-and-hour violations and gender discrimination. It announced an overhaul of its pay and promotion policies last summer.

OK, first WM has ~1.2million employees in the US and over 1.5 worldwide. It is still the nations largest private-sector emploer. Second, I will NOT be covering these events in person, as much fun as Bentonville is supposed to be, as I have far more important things to do!

Posted by Kevin at 1:23 PM

March 23, 2005

Candanian Unions Call Wal-Mart a Human Rights Abuser

It is sometimes a reporter's job to just rehash what is fed to them by their subjects. When reporting about unions, a reporter will no doubt hear that unions think it a fundamental human right for workers to join a union:

"When Wal-Mart denies Canadian workers their right to join a union and bargain collectively, it is thumbing its nose at the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the basic rights of all workers and families in Canada," said Michael Fraser, UFCW national director. "It's an outrage that Canadian governments are tolerating this routine denial of basic rights by Wal-Mart."

The unions will announce tomorrow a national labour movement campaign, as well as specific initiatives involving Wal-Mart.

Aren't reporters supposed to give a little thought about this fundamental right of association? The implentation of this right by the UFCW at Wal-Mart will mean a minority of Wal-Mart workers will have union dues and a worker contract involuntarily imposed on them, and not just by a majority of their co-workers, but by the legal representation of a national federation they do not wish to participate in. Just how is it a fundamental right to coerce a minority, allegedly for their own good?

Can't one also insist that when Wal-Mart refuses to run a union shop, it is utilizing its right to employ its capital where and with whom it sees fit? It is utilizing its right to "withhold services"...

Posted by Kevin at 11:42 AM

March 22, 2005

The Teamsters are Coming!

While the UFCW is busy trying unsuccessfully to unionize Wal-Mart's stores, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters wants in its distribution centers. Via walmartworkersunite.org:

Wal-Mart workers deserve the same representation: As the world�s most modern and efficient distribution and retail system, Wal-Mart should be held to the highest labor standards for treatment of its employees. Based on Wal-Mart�s profitability, the company should be expected to set the gold standard in terms of wages and benefits.
Oh, please. These guys are so full of it sometimes.

Look at the per employee profitability of ~0% unionized Wal-Mart compared say to 64% Teamsters-unionized UPS, and you'll find that this is hot air.

Unfortunately, neither WM or UPS breaks out profit from U.S. operations (I'm not certain that's even theoretically possible).

However, Wal-Mart's profit per employee was ($10.3billion / 1.6 million) = $6416 in 2004. Since the international division earns 20% of total sales, and 25% of employees, as well as some underperforming stores, this probably underestimates U.S. profit per U.S. employee a bit, but that's the data we have from the consolidated income statement.

In contrast, in 2003 (the latest data I could find), teamsters-unionized UPS had $8140 profit per employee ( $2.9billion/356K -- see the 2003 Annual Report pages 23 and 60).

So why exactly should we expect Wal-Mart "to set the gold standard" in pay when it earns less per employee than a place that the Teamsters have heavily organized?

Conflict of Interest Notice: My brother works for UPS and is a member of the Teamsters, so if anything, I should be accused of going easy on both of them.

Posted by Kevin at 4:16 PM

March 17, 2005

NLRB Hearing on March 25th

The UFCW has convinced the NLRB to conduct a hearing on whether WM intimidated workers during the recent Loveland union vote:

After workers at the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express in Loveland rejected unionization 17-1 in a vote February 25, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 said the union would ask the NLRB to dismiss the results. Local 7 spokesman Dave Minshall had said no union member was allowed to observe the election and that Wal-Mart added employees to the unit to dilute the strength of the union supporters.

"The claims made by the UFCW are simply not true, and we are confident that the (NLRB) regional office will find no evidence of these allegations," said Christi Davis Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Bentonville, AR-based Wal-Mart.

A hearing was scheduled for March 25 at the NLRB office in Denver.

"After a preliminary investigation I have concluded that the [union's] objections raise substantial and material issues of fact, including credibility resolutions, which can best be resolved at a hearing," NLRB regional director Allan Benson said.

This should be interesting.

Posted by Kevin at 12:30 PM

March 11, 2005

Teachers Won't Be Reimbursed for Shopping at WM

In Washington state, theWashington Education Association's Children's Fund reimburses teachers for school supplies purchased. The teacher's union has decided that it will no longer reimburse teachers for items purchased at Wal-Mart:


When it's time to pick up supplies for her third-grade classroom, Jennifer Strand would prefer to steer clear of Wal-Mart.

The teacher is convinced the retail giant isn't paying workers a fair wage, but in the northeastern Washington town of Colville -- population 5,000 -- the only other option is a small stationery section in the local grocery store.

So Strand became a reluctant Wal-Mart shopper -- venturing in from time to time to pick up supplies and emergency items for disadvantaged students, such as coats and shoes. She'd get reimbursed through the Washington Education Association's Children's Fund, a decade-old charity that provides up to $100 per student each year.

Not anymore.

Taking a bold political stand, the state teachers' union last week declared the fund off-limits to Wal-Mart purchases.

How exactly is it a bold political stand? I'm not really sure considering how politcally active teachers unions have been for years.

This my favorite quote:


A Spanish teacher at Columbia River High School in Vancouver, Olveda lauded the association's move and said she refuses to shop at Wal-Mart, as do many of her colleagues.

"One of my students has an 80-year-old grandmother who works there and has no benefits," she said. "There are so many other places we could be spending our money other than Wal-Mart. Granted, they have lower prices, but it's because they're predatory."

Nevermind that if WM had to pay for healthcare for this person, she wouldn't have a job.

Posted by Bob at 3:07 PM

March 9, 2005

No Union for Windsor, Ontario WM

As Bob noted, there was to be vote to unionize the WM in Windsor, Ontario. That vote failed 167-59 (press release):

MISSISSAUGA, ON, March 9 /CNW/ - Wal-Mart associates in Windsor, Ontario, have voted resoundingly against being unionized by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). In a democratic, secret-ballot vote held yesterday at the Windsor store, store associates in the union's proposed bargaining unit voted 167 to 59 against joining the union, representing a 74 percent majority of associates voting against certification. This marks the fourth time in less than two years that Wal-Mart Canada associates have voted against being represented by the UFCW.

This result does not include more than 50 additional ballots that were cast at Wal-Mart's request by hourly store associates who the union is attempting to exclude from the vote.

We hereby initiate a new category for ALP, "Associates Rejecting Unionization.

Also, please do not confuse Windsor, Ontario with Windsor, Colorado; in the latter there was a wild Supercenter debate, not union issues.

UPDATE: The UFCW, once again, charges WM with "intimidation", and demands another vote.

Posted by Kevin at 11:57 AM

March 3, 2005

More in Canada

Being a mediocre blogger, I forgot to post this article from TheStreet.com. It looks like their will be another vote at a Canadian store, this one in Ontario:


Labor relations are again boiling for Wal-Mart (WMT:NYSE - news - research) in Canada, as workers at a store in Windsor, Ontario, will vote on whether to unionize as early as next week.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW) said Wednesday it filed an application for certification with the Ontario Labor Relations Board, and an employee vote on whether to be represented by the union is likely to follow soon.

Posted by Bob at 2:05 PM

February 25, 2005

Details about Loveland Supercenter

The NLRB's decision containing almost incredible detail (MSWord) about the Loveland Supercenter is available on the website of Raymond Hogler, a Prof. of Management at the College of Business of Colorado State U....

Want to know about wages?:

Entry-level hourly wages for employees in Store 953 range from $7.00 (front end employees) to $11.25 (pharmacy/prescriptions). Maximum hourly wages range from $7.80 (domestic goods) to $21.43 (back office employees). The wage ranges for Department 10, automotive sales associates and night stockers, are from $7.80 to $9.56. Anita Evans� rate is $11.20 per hour. The wage ranges for Department 37, TLE service, are from $8.20 to $11.55.
(if it disappears from the web, I have a copy)

Basically, we find out that the decision of appropriate bargaining unit is almost entirely subjective.

Posted by Kevin at 11:32 AM

Loveland, CO Vote

UPDATE: Rejected 17-1 boasts press release!

In an election held today at the Loveland, Colorado store, 18 associates who work in the Tire and Lube Express department cast their votes in a democratic, secret-ballot election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board....

Today's vote in Loveland resulted in 17 votes for the associates and Wal-Mart and only 1 vote for the UFCW. Over the last 2 weeks, 34 Tire and Lube Express associates have voted to reject the union.

It's rather clear who was the yes vote. Reuters recaps only the basics.

The UFCW responds:

United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Dave Minshall said the group will ask the National Labor Relations Board to throw the results out, saying no union member was allowed to observe the election and Wal-Mart added employees to the unit to dilute the strength of the union supporters.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said the union was offered an opportunity to provide a substitute observer but could not find one. She said any workers added to the operation were a response to business needs and not part of an anti-union effort.

Minshall said workers had been subjected to intimidation and harassment before the vote. Josh Noble, a tire shop worker who said he voted in favor of the UFCW, said he had been harassed by other Wal-Mart employees and that managers "kind of blew it off" when he reported one incident.

"It's fear that won this election for Wal-Mart," Minshall said.

Earlier... Here's how Big Media prepared for today's vote to unionize WM's Loveland, CO Supercenter Tire & Lube employees. CNN/Money reports it quick and dirty:

Workers at the Loveland, Colo., Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express are expected to vote Friday on representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in an ongoing battle to unionize.

The department's 20 employees won approval from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January to hold the election, which could make the workers at the Loveland store the first union workers at the world's biggest retailer.

However, the WaPo takes one person's views as a "cross section" of consumer sentiment:

A cross-section of customers suggested that they could tolerate whatever price increases might follow from unionization.

"I come here really for the selection, not the prices," said Paula Emly of Windsor, Colo., who bought two bedspreads Thursday. "A place that has this many employees, I mean, there ought to be a union here. I don't think it would raise prices much."

Astonishing. As if her belief about price effects of unionization is any more informed than mine or yours...


The Denver Post gives us a profile of Joshua Noble, and some very relevant details about the composition of the 20 voters:

In Loveland, nine of the department's 17 workers in November signed cards calling for a union vote. Since then, two have left to attend college and a third was fired. As many as six new workers were brought in, Noble and the union said.

Those workers could skew the vote in favor of the retail giant, which has historically fought unionization efforts. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman would not confirm the changes.

Mr. Noble explains that his unfortunate medical condition takes much of his income, and has taken him away from work:
Noble hasn't been at work since late January. A seizure disorder has kept him out on medical leave. He expects to return to work March 6. Late last year, Noble missed time from work after being in a car accident.

Noble's medical issues have also motivated him to lead the charge for unionization.

He moved back in with his parents so he could catch up on his medical bills. His health insurance and medications eat up a big chunk of his take-home pay, prompting his belief that the company should improve its wages and benefits.

And the Times-Call group discusses the recent rally attended by ~200 in support of the union:

Nearly 200 people marched Wednesday evening to the Loveland Wal-Mart Supercenter, chanting: �Together! Together! We�re all in this together!� and �What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!�
No, you want money. That's fine, but these slogans are so tiring. Mr. Noble's description of the anti-union folks that descended on Loveland is colorful but probably more or less accurate:
However, Wal-Mart executives are doing all they can to sway the vote, he said. Wal-Mart officials from Bentonville, Ark. � what Noble refers to as the Wal-Mart �anti-union SWAT team� � visit the store four days a week to �brainwash� employees against unions, he said.
I'd like to see their brainwashing videos.

Posted by Kevin at 11:07 AM

February 14, 2005

Simon Head in NY Review of Books

Although noted earlier, somehow I forgot to read this review article by Simon Head in The New York Review of Books. I found this article hard to read because it intentionally leaves out important details:

In the only known case of union success at Wal-Mart, in 2000 workers at the meat-cutting department of a Texas Wal-Mart somehow managed to circumvent this corporate FBI, and voted to join the UFCW in an election certified by the National Labor Relations Board. A week later Wal-Mart closed down the meat-cutting department and fired the offending employees, both illegal acts under the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB ordered Wal-Mart to reopen the department, reemploy the fired workers, and bargain with the union, but Wal-Mart has appealed the NLRB decision and the litigation continues.
Of course, WM also eliminated butchers companywide, which is not illegal under the NLRB. All WM meats are now packaged outside of stores. WM's retaliation was arguably specifically structured (probably with unionization in mind) in such a way that it is entirely compliant with NLRA. Here are some links from both sides 1,2,3)

Also, I have some problems with the closing:

As things stand now, the National Labor Relations Act, the toothless federal law governing the right to organize, allows union-busting corporations like Wal-Mart to break the law with virtual impunity. Since 1995 the US government has issued sixty complaints against Wal-Mart at the National Labor Relations Board, citing the illegal firing of pro-union employees, as well as the unlawful surveillance and intimidation of employees. But under the present law persistent violators of government rules such as Wal-Mart are responsible only for restoring the lost pay of fired workers �in most cases, not more than a few thousand dollars�and these penalties do not increase with successive violations.
This is really convoluted; union busting is not illegal. (Please, before commenting, show me the law that makes what WM actually does illegal). Is Mr. Simon insisting that WM breaks the laws but is not charged? Yes and No. He is insisting that WM breaks laws, is charged, convicted and pays fines that are too small for his idea of positive social change.

Someday, I will have enough time to write essays of this length and competence.

Posted by Kevin at 3:04 PM

February 11, 2005

Union Fights Closure of Jonquiere, Quebec WM

Yea, we're gonna have another boycott:

Wal-Mart Canada Corp.'s decision to close its first unionized store could spark a protracted legal battle, a possible national boycott, and the retailer could be forced to re-open the store, the high-powered lawyer for the union says.

Paul Cavalluzzo declined to confirm what direction the United Food and Commercial Workers were likely to take at a press conference scheduled for today. But he said the union has three options in front of it: legal action, an economic boycott and political pressure.

UFCW national director Michael Fraser has already said the union will file an unfair labour practice charge against Wal-Mart with the Quebec Labour Relations Board. And more actions are coming, a source close to the union said yesterday.

A labour board challenge, if successful, could force Wal-Mart to re-open the store or expose it to significant fines, "in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions," said Cavalluzzo, who was lead counsel in the Walkerton water inquiry.

"There's no limit to what the board can order to rectify a violation of the labour law," Cavalluzzo said in a telephone interview late yesterday. The union would first have to prove the company had violated its duty to bargain in good faith, he said.

Also, WM continues to insist that its employees don't need a union.

Posted by Kevin at 6:44 AM

February 9, 2005

Quebec Store to Close

The Jonquiere, Quebec store, which was the first to have a union in North America, is going to close:


NEW YORK - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it will close a Canadian store whose workers are on the verge of becoming the first ever to win a union contract from the world's biggest retailer.

Wal-Mart said it was shuttering the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators, that would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business. The United Food & Commercial Workers Canada last week asked Quebec labor officials to appoint a mediator, saying that negotiations had reached an impasse.

"We were hoping it wouldn't come to this," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada. "Despite nine days of meetings over three months, we've been unable to reach an agreement with the union that in our view will allow the store to operate efficiently and profitably."

Pelletier said the store will close in May. The retailer had first discussed closing the Jonquiere store last October, saying that the store was losing money.


It's not too surprising as this avoids setting a precedent for other stores in the in North America, although there is another unionized store in Quebec. It seems unlikely the company will change their business model and give in to demands of unions. As the story says, workers left the store crying, something that won't be lost on others.

The demands sounded odd, increase the number of employees and also the number of working hours for a number already there. A Wal-Mart spokesman said " they failed to appreciate the fragility of conditions". It looks more like the issue was not just wages, but how the store was run. If the store really wasn't profitable, management through union contracts doesn't seem likely make it so.

The whole article is in the extension.

NEW YORK - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Wednesday it will close a Canadian store whose workers are on the verge of becoming the first ever to win a union contract from the world's biggest retailer.

Wal-Mart said it was shuttering the store in Jonquiere, Quebec, in response to unreasonable demands from union negotiators, that would make it impossible for the store to sustain its business. The United Food & Commercial Workers Canada last week asked Quebec labor officials to appoint a mediator, saying that negotiations had reached an impasse.

"We were hoping it wouldn't come to this," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada. "Despite nine days of meetings over three months, we've been unable to reach an agreement with the union that in our view will allow the store to operate efficiently and profitably."

Pelletier said the store will close in May. The retailer had first discussed closing the Jonquiere store last October, saying that the store was losing money.

A spokesman for the UFCW said Wednesday the union had not yet seen the retailer's statement, and that leaders were traveling and not immediately available for comment.

Some employees at the store said they believed the store was closing because of their agreement to join the union and several cried as they left the store. They told Radio-Canada TV that an announcement had been made and they were not allowed to ask questions.

The store in Jonquiere, about 240 miles northeast of Montreal, became the first unionized Wal-Mart store in North America last September, after the bargaining unit was certified by provincial labor officials. Since then, workers at a second Quebec store have also been granted union status. Neither had reached a contract.

The union efforts at both stores are part of a larger chess game labor organizers are waging with Wal-Mart at stores across Canada. The campaign, financed by UFCW money from both Canada and the United States, is also geared to captured the attention of workers in Wal-Mart's home country.

The closest a U.S. union has ever come to winning a battle with Wal-Mart was in 2000, at a store in Jacksonville, Texas. In that store, 11 workers � all members of the store's meatpacking department � voted to join and be represented by the UFCW.

That effort failed when Wal-Mart eliminated the job of meatcutter companywide, and moved away from in-store meatcutting to stocking only pre-wrapped meat.

Recently, some workers in the tire department of a Wal-Mart store in Colorado have sought union representation, and the National Labor Relations Board has said it intends to schedule a vote.

Wal-Mart spokesman Pelletier said the company was closing in Jonquiere because of unreasonable union demands over scheduling and staffing, and the UFCW's refusal to detail its pay requirements.

The union's demands would have forced the retailer to add 30 people to the existing payroll of 190, and guarantee many workers additional hours, he said.

"In our view, the union demands failed to appreciate the fragile conditions of the store," he said.

Posted by Bob at 8:34 PM

Loveland Union Vote on 2/25

The vote to unionize the Tire and Lube associates at the Loveland WM will most likely be reconfigured somehow, but here's the timeline:


Nov. 16: Nine employees at the Loveland Wal-Mart Tire and Lube Express submit a petition to hold an election to unionize.

Dec. 2: Hearing begins at the National Labor Relations Board office in Denver to determine if the Tire and Lube Express employees can hold a union election.

Dec. 13: Hearing ends after seven days of testimony and evidence from both Wal-Mart and union representatives.

Jan. 28: The labor board in Denver decides to allow Loveland employees to hold a union election.

Feb. 7: The board schedules the election for Feb. 25.

Feb. 11: Wal-Mart�s deadline to appeal the election.

Feb. 25: Election Day for 20 Tire and Lube Express employees at the Loveland Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Posted by Kevin at 12:12 PM

January 27, 2005

Danish Trade Union Divests from WM

UNI is gleeful:

The Danish trade union pension funds are showing the way for all socially responsible investors, said UNI general secretary Philip J. Jennings in welcoming the announcement that they will disinvest from Wal-Mart. Speaking today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jennings warned that walmartization of working life, where workers see their wages fall and social benefits disappear, can seriously endanger social and political stability.

It is immoral that Wal-Mart, which is world's largest company, uses its economic power to push millions of working families world-wide into poverty and despair. The global union movement is stepping up its response to the walmartization challenge, in support of a sustainable economic and social development.

This lingo is really, really annoying. Just what are the specific policies that constitute "sustainable economic and social development"? Without specifics, this is utter nonsense! More here.

Posted by Kevin at 10:36 AM

January 26, 2005

AFL-CIO Steps Up the Protests

This time in Kansas City:

More than 6,000 Wal-Mart managers today wrap up their annual meeting in Kansas City, where they reviewed performance and analyzed the coming year for the world's largest company.

But even the most focused managers couldn't miss recent discord that union and social activists have wrought on the giant retailer and the company's campaign to rebut it.

Outside Bartle Hall on Saturday, dozens of area residents � most of them union members �protested Wal-Mart's practices and policies.

�Wal-Mart is emblematic of the thinking that operational efficiency works best for everybody,� said Mary Lindsay, who helped organize the protest. �But there's a downside to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart hurts people, communities and democracy. It's about more than just low prices.�

Lindsay is an organizer of the Kansas City chapter of ReclaimDemocracy.org, a recently formed group that thinks corporations need to be more accountable to citizens.

While criticism of Wal-Mart is hardly new, it has built some momentum as the company has become the defendant in dozens of class-action lawsuits over allegedly unpaid work and a gender discrimination case that could become the biggest class-action lawsuit of its kind. Some former female employees of area Wal-Marts have submitted testimonials about their inability to obtain managerial posts at the company....

One of Wal-Mart's biggest critics is the AFL-CIO, which, along with some of its member unions, is planning a campaign to pressure the retailer into raising its wages and benefits. Reports indicate that the AFL-CIO, led by unions such as Service Employees International and the United Food and Commercial Workers, plans to spend $25 million this year, more than what has been spent against any single company.

Has criticism actually built momentum? Sure, if momentum can be purchased with union money... Also, reclaimdemocracy.org was registered on October 11, 2002 in Bozeman, MT. The entire organization is not "recently formed". According to guidestar.org, it received $35K in contributions in 2002 and $56K in contributions in 2003. The local chapter is gung-ho against WM:
walmart_low_morals.jpg

And here's somebody that usually gets little press:

An official with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which fights unionism, said the AFL-CIO's motive is to get companies such as Wal-Mart to agree to unionize, whether employees want to or not.

�This is a corporate campaign to inflict as much pain as possible on the company until it agrees to unionize without even an employee vote,� said Stefan Gleason, a vice president with the foundation

�It appears that the vast majority of Wal-Mart employees are thrilled to work for a company that provides such good opportunity, pay and benefits. Union organizers have had very little success in persuading even a minority of employees in any particular workplace even to seek an election to unionize.�

Posted by Kevin at 12:15 PM

January 24, 2005

More on the WM Union in China

Remember that China is liberalizing its markets faster than its political institutions, so when Chinese law helps Wal-Mart workers form a "union", you had better understand who is actually in charge. Strangely enough, this is not recognized by socialists in the US:

The All-China Federation of Trade Unions announced in November that Wal-Mart, which employs 20,000 workers at its stores in China, has agreed to allow a union to represent them if its "associates"--its euphemism for employees--show that they want one...

Chinese law requires that all companies, whether private or state-owned, allow the establishment of unions. But the law has not been vigorously enforced in foreign-owned companies until recently.

The author urges those in social democratic countries not to oppose the national union:
The ACFTU has taken on a huge task in trying to organize Wal-Mart, as U.S. unions have already found out. It takes genuine international solidarity among the workers of many countries to force these transnational corporations to sign a union contract. That should be at the top of the agenda of unions in the U.S.--not a campaign to defame China's national union organization.
In other words, it's union power that matters, not individual consent or local control over bargaining. Very honest.

Posted by Kevin at 10:41 AM

January 21, 2005

TERRORIZED!

We recently noted that a second Canadian Wal-Mart has been unionized, and that WM will most likely contest the procedure. Nathan Newman has more about the simple process used, and sums it up nicely:

Quebec requires companies to recognize a union whenever a majority of workers sign cards requesting one:
For now, I'll remain agnostic whether this levels the playing field or tilts it heavily in the union direction.

However, Nathan is off his rocker to suggest that 40% of American workers "are so terrorized that they can't act on that desire to be in a union." It's this type of antagonistic language that demonstrates why I personally want nothing to do with unions, and makes me sympathetic with those companies that (legally) "union-bust". For, if those 40% (a number generated by an AFL-CIO survey in 2002) were to join a union tomorrow, a large part of the 50% who don't want to join a union would be legally compelled to do so.

Would that be justice? I think not.

Posted by Kevin at 3:31 PM

Caledonia Township Union Members Protest WM...

and local media lap it up:

Gary Isham, with Carpenters Local 706, says Wal-Mart can hire anyone it pleases, but people don't have to shop there. "Well, they certainly do have that right but if they want us to spend our hard-earned dollars...in their stores, they have to be more sensitive to the folks that live here in this community.
Actually, it employs members of your geographcial community, just not members of your voluntary club, who when not unemployed make at least $35 dollars an hour (PDF) in wages and benefits (for commercial construction). Apprentices start at $12 an hour.

Posted by Kevin at 1:50 PM

January 19, 2005

2nd Unionized WM in Canada

Despite the public language, there is no such thing as momentum in union certification battles:

In a Jan. 17 decision, the Quebec Labor Relations Commission accredited Local 501 of the UFCW to represent the roughly 200 workers at a Wal-Mart store in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, the union said.

The decision came after a majority of the employees at the Saint-Hyacinthe store, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Montreal, signed union cards.

The union said it will send a letter to Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, on Thursday to set dates for bargaining and expects to deliver contract proposals to the company within three weeks.

"The momentum is picking up," Local 501 president Yvon Bellemare said in a release. "Wal-Mart workers now realize that if they want a union in their store, Wal-Mart can't stop them."

But a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada said the retailer is considering all options to block the decision, including legal action against the Labor Commission.

A "dark day in Arkansas" indeed.

Posted by Kevin at 8:38 PM

December 29, 2004

How Can WM Not "Permit" Unions (in the U.S.)?

We all know that WM has a staunch anti-union stance, but one can carry that characterization too far:

Wal-Mart has been much in the news recently in China, with the government insisting that it do what it refuses to do in the United States: allow all its workers to join unions.
"Refuse" is a stupid term in this context, since it implies that Wal-Mart has decisive control over the unionization process. It doesn't.

In the U.S., Wal-Mart has no legal authority to "refuse" unions, although it can oppose them, and shut down stores in which they gain influence. Also, as far as I know, WM has not been charged with using illegal means to prevent their workers from using labor law to require Wal-Mart to recognize and deal with a union that they join. Wal-Mart does engage in many aspects of "Union-Busting", but contrary to the long-held beliefs of many union members, these tactics are legal.

Posted by Kevin at 1:04 PM

November 30, 2004

Workers at CO Attempt to Unionize

Workers in the automotive department at a Wal-Mart in Colorado are attempting to unionize:


LOVELAND, Colo. - In a move that has been unsuccessful elsewhere in the United States, 17 workers at a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express have taken the first step to unionize at the world's largest retailer.


The National Labor Relations Board planned a hearing Thursday to consider the workers' request to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.


"Wal-Mart workers don't have to be second-class citizens," said Ernest Duran Jr., president of the union, which also represents more than 17,000 grocery workers at King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons stores.


Union officials argue the workers in the automotive service department are separate from the store and eligible for independent union representation. Wal-Mart officials disagree.


"With approximately 400 associates in that particular facility, we feel that more than 17 associates should have a say on such an important matter," said Christi Gallagher, a spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark-based Wal-Mart.


Wal-Mart said it treats its workers fairly and has an open door policy that lets each negotiate directly with management.


"Our associates see they don't have to pay hard earned money to do what they can do every day," she said.


The union is in negotiations with the Colorado grocery stores, which have cited competition from nonunion discount chains such as Wal-Mart in offering wage and benefit increases that have been rejected by workers.


Efforts to unionize Wal-Mart stores in the United States have failed, while in Canada, a government agency this year certified workers at a Quebec store as a union and told the two sides to negotiate. Wal-Mart has said it may have to close that store.


In the United States, the closest a U.S. union ever came to representing Wal-Mart workers happened in 2000. Eleven members of the store's meatpacking department at Jacksonville, Texas, store voted to be represented by the UFCW.


In a move it said was unrelated to the union vote, Wal-Mart eliminated the job of meatcutter company-wide, and announced it would only sell pre-cut, pre-wrapped meat.


The workers were offered other jobs at the store.

Posted by Bob at 6:35 PM

November 10, 2004

Unite to Win

The blog of Fight for the Future, which I affectionately call the other Wal-Mart blog, has closed down. In it's place, we have the SEIU blog, and now Unite to Win. The first post at Unite to Win is meant to jump-start the anti-WM coalition, and is a good read regardless of your position.

All of these are run by SEIU's president, the well-connected Andrew Stern.

Posted by Kevin at 1:32 PM

October 26, 2004

WM Threatens to Close Unionized Store!

You can unionize a store, but you can't make WM keep it open:

Employees at Wal-Mart's only unionised shop in North America were told that their organising drive makes team effort "impossible" and that the store may shut down if an agreement is not soon reached with the union.

The Jonqui�re outlet, 500 km northeast of Montreal, employs about 170 people and has been unionised since August.

Wal-Mart Canada has expressed impatience waiting for contract talks to begin...

"If the store can't be efficient and profitable," warned a company release, "it's possible that the store will close." The union insists Wal-Mart's hourly workers make just less than the average supermarket employee in salaries and benefits.

Readers, if you don't like these completely legal tactics, don't shop at WM.

The employees in this store really are at each other's throats:

There has been angry name-calling by workers riven into pro-union and anti-union factions and accusations of intimidation by managers and threats of a lawsuit by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union....

The buzz at the Jonquiere store is no accident. It is just the current focus in a larger chess game, waged by labor organizers in stores scattered across Canada � including two other Wal-Marts in Quebec, where union spokesman Michael Forman said employees have also applied to the provincial labor board for union certification...

Their clandestine discussions were almost out of character in a region where union membership has long been worn proudly.

While union membership levels have declined in the United States to about 13 percent of the labor force, about a third of Canadian workers are unionized. Quebec is even higher, with about 41 percent of its workers in unions.

''You can't live in Jonquiere � and not have a friend or a relative, a wife or a husband or a father who is unionized,'' says Serge Lemelin, a reporter for regional newspaper Le Quotidien. ''It's a chateau-fort � a kind of fortress for the unions here.''

Even so, the talk about a union did not win universal support in the new Wal-Mart, with some workers worried it might cost them their jobs, others rejecting the idea of paying union dues.

Here's the text of the entire WM release:

Wal-Mart Canada issues statement regarding union situation in Jonquiere, Quebec

Company concerned about economic viability of the Jonquiere store,
urges labour-relations process to move forward quickly.

MISSISSAUGA, ON, Oct. 13 /CNW/ - Wal-Mart Canada today issued the
following statement with respect to the union situation in Jonquiere, Quebec.

It has been several weeks since the Jonquiere store was automatically
certified with the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW), but no
communication from the union has been received with regard to beginning talks
with the company. The Jonquiere store is not meeting its business plan, and
the company is concerned about the economic viability of the store. Wal-Mart
Canada believes the unresolved labour situation at the Jonquiere store is
proving detrimental to improving the performance of the store.

Since the UFCW union has not communicated at all with Wal-Mart Canada,
the company has issued a letter to the union (Local 503) urging that a meeting
take place with the union on October 26 to begin the labour-relations process,
for the following reasons:

- The Wal-Mart associates in Jonquiere know their store is not meeting
its business goals, and they would like the labour-relations process
to move forward as quickly as possible so they can have certainty over
operating conditions at the store.

- Wal-Mart Canada is concerned about the fractured environment in the
Jonquiere store resulting from the exclusion of more than 30 hourly
workers from the bargaining unit. This makes it difficult to operate
the store in a collaborative team environment. This exclusion of
workers was described as having no "rational" or "defensible" basis in
the British Columbia Labour Relations Board's decision to dismiss this
same union's application for certification of the Wal-Mart store in
Terrace, B.C.

- The failure of the union to contact us to begin negotiations is
causing anxiety and uncertainty among our associates in Jonquiere.

To this end, Wal-Mart Canada has issued the letter to the union
requesting that the labour-relations process begin as soon as possible so that
these matters can be addressed.

The Jonquiere store was automatically certified with the United Food and
Commercial Workers union (UFCW) on August 2 on the basis of signed union cards submitted by the union to the Quebec Labour Commission. Wal-Mart associates in the Jonquiere store rejected this same union in a democratic, secret-ballot vote that was held on April 2 of this year.

Wal-Mart Canada employs more than 65,000 Canadians and has been ranked Canada's best retail employer twice during the past three years by
international human-resources firm Hewitt Associates and Report on Business
Magazine. The company is committed to community involvement and has
contributed more than $35 million to Canadian charities. Wal-Mart Canada was
established in 1994, is headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, and operates
234 Wal-Mart discount stores and six SAM'S CLUBS in Canada.

For further information: Contact Andrew Pelletier, (905) 821-2111, ext
4585

Posted by Kevin at 10:36 AM

August 6, 2004

Manitoba WM Employees Reject Union, Again

The Basics:

Workers at the Thompson store voted June 4. Results of the vote were released Friday by the Manitoba Labour Board.

It's the second time the Manitoba employees have voted on the issue. Last August, they voted 61 to 54 against representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW).

Wal-Mart and the UFCW have engaged in a heated battle over the years. Union officials have accused the company of convincing employees to vote against the union.

The company issued a statement after the Manitoba board released the results: "Wal-Mart was extremely limited in its communication to its own associations about the issue of unionization throughout the union's lengthy and aggressive organizing."

More advanced--including the usual love by Union reps:
Wal-Mart employees in Thompson, Man., have rejected union representation, just days after a Quebec board certified the only unionized Wal-Mart in North America. The results of the June 4 vote, released Friday, were 67 to 44 against unionization. A total of 130 employees were eligible to vote.

"This is significant and a major victory for democracy," said Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, headquartered in Mississauga, Ont.

It's the second time in less than a year that workers in Thompson, about 720 kilometres north of Winnipeg, have turned down a chance to be represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). Workers also rejected union representation in a vote held in June 2003.

Pelletier noted that the latest margin was considerably higher than the previous seven-vote edge. He said that was particularly significant given Manitoba's labour laws, which he said give unions more latitude than companies in terms of what they can tell employees.

"It also shows that pretty well any time our employees have been given a chance to vote in a secret ballot, they vote against the union," Pelletier said.

In a release, union local president Robert Ziegler said he was disappointed but not surprised by the results.

"Every Wal-Mart associate knows that (voting for a union) will prompt management to unleash so many subtle - and some not-so-subtle - 'threats' that they'll regret their decision."

UPDATE:More union love:
But it won't stop the Winnipeg-based union from trying again, said president Robert Ziegler.... "I would have to say we're disappointed, but there is still 40% of our membership who voted in favour of a union," said Ziegler, adding another organizing drive would occur in six months....

There was one spoiled ballot and 26 workers didn't vote in the most recent vote.

Ziegler said the closing of a day-care centre after employees voted to unionize two weeks prior to the Wal-Mart vote may have been a factor in the rejection. The outcome also may have been different had the vote not been held on a Friday afternoon, he said.

In other words, if you make life difficult for Wal-Mart, WM returns the favor. Why do these people expect Wal-Mart to cave in when they're so abusive of the company's image and character?

Posted by Kevin at 8:42 PM

More on Jonquiere

It seems that the labor board that certified the UFCW to speak on behalf of WM workers in Jonquiere ignored the wishes of a majority of workers in that store, if voting counts for anything:

"It's important to note that this automatic certification comes just four months after the employees voted against this union in a democratic, secret-ballot vote," Andrew Pelletier, spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, said.

Under Quebec law, unions can be certified without an affirmative vote from the pertinent workers, if they file enough union cards to claim they "represent a majority" of workers.

So much for due process in employer rights. Why do they even bother with the vote? Also note the utter ignorance and hatred of the union folk:
But Denier alleges that Wal-Mart is really just dedicated to stopping workers from unionizing. "In the United States, Wal-Mart depends on their ability to coerce, intimidate, threaten and fire people in order to stop workers from having a voice," he asserted.

He also decried the "Wal-Martization" of the world.

Wal-Mart is, according to Denier, "systematically lowering living standards for workers around the world, stepping on the rights of other businesses and bulldozing whole communities."

Denier also referred to the World War II era in explaining why he thought a corporation would be opposed to its employees forming a union. "I think you would have to be a Nazi" to believe workers don't have the right to organize, he said.

Dan Swinney, executive director of the Center for Labor and Community Research, accused Wal-Mart of being the "poster child" for "low road" business practices.

Wal-Mart uses "predatory, destructive business practices in the pursuit of securing high returns in a very short period of time," Swinney alleged....

"Wal-Mart has a well-documented history ... both domestically and internationally of really driving down and destroying communities," said Swinney, who wants all Wal-Mart stores unionized....

Wal-Mart offers medical coverage to 100 percent of its associates, even if they only work part-time and said it is the "exact same medical plan our CEO is on." That coverage, she said, is extended to family members if the associate is a full-time worker.

Posted by Kevin at 9:55 AM

August 3, 2004

Union for Jonquiere, Quebec WM

For all you Americans, this is not the Manitoba store I've been writing about:

Workers at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) outlet in the Canadian province of Quebec have been granted permission to form a union, which would be the first in North America for the big retailer.

In a decision dated Aug. 2, the Quebec labor relations board said it accredited Local 503 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union to represent the roughly 170 workers at the Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, a city about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Quebec City.

Doubtless, Wal-Mart will appeal.

Posted by Kevin at 1:26 PM

July 17, 2004

Too Many Votes?

The Winnipeg Sun calls for a change in Manitoba's labor law, to prevent serial harrassment of companies by unions:

How often should a union be allowed to hold a certification vote at any one company? Once a year? Once every five years? Every six months?

It's a good question. And it's one that's particularly relevant in Thompson right now, where the United Food and Commercial Workers is taking its second stab in less than a year at organizing the city's Wal-Mart store.

Staff there opposed joining the union by a margin of 61-54 in an August, 2003 vote. But because there is no limit on how often a union can do a certification drive at a workplace, the union began a second drive right away and another vote was held June 4....

The UFCW's strategy is to carpet bomb Wal-Mart with endless certification votes until one day, hopefully, one of them hits the target.

Which is nothing short of corporate harassment and has nothing to do with looking out for the best interests of workers.

Posted by Kevin at 3:26 PM

July 15, 2004

Manitoba Update

The attempt at unionizing the Thompson store in Manitoba took a turn for the worse, as the labor board has agreed to hear WM's complaint that too many employees were excluded from voting in the election.

The votes from the latest Thompson vote won't be counted until the labour board hearing concludes on Aug. 6.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Groh said the company is happy with the board's position.

"We're pleased the board determined it's worth hearing the merits of our position," he said yesterday from Toronto. "The union's proposed bargaining unit fails to include too many of our associates to be valid."

Posted by Kevin at 10:46 AM

July 11, 2004

In These Times: The ITT List

While surfing online for something on a totally different topic, having nothing whatsoever to do with Wal-Mart, I came across this item that in my opinion is certainly worth noting.

Am quoting it in full however, as it is not clear to me exactly how long it may remain on the In These Times The ITT List Web page: News and commentary written by In These Times editors and staff.

It was orginally posted there by Emily Udell, advertising director at In These Times:

The ITT List

The Women of Wal-Mart
July 7, 2004

Today Wal-Mart asked the San Francisco Federal Court of Appeals to review Judge Martin W. Jenkin�s ruling that a sex discrimination case against the monolithic corporation be considered a class action lawsuit. The class could include as many as 1.6 million employees�almost every woman who has worked for Wal-Mart since December 1996.

Wal-Mart�s reputed discrimination against women is an issue that even 1992�s Miss America Carolyn Sapp is behind.

The former beauty queen launched a Web site Wal-Mart versus Women to spread the word about the corporation�s gender discrimination. The site features news and ways to get involved in the issue. Who would�ve thought?

In a June 2nd article The Labor Research Association connects the discrimination to the fact that Wal-Mart�s labor force is not unionized. Cynthia Green writes, �Wal-Mart has denied all claims of gender discrimination, but the alleged infractions are of a piece with the company�s history of union bashing.�

And indeed union bashing is a priority for Wal-Mart, according to a recent article by Liza Featherstone in The Nation. Featherstone quotes a Wal-Mart manger�s handbook: �The entire management staff should fully comprehend and appreciate exactly what is expected of their individual efforts to meet the union free objective.... Unless each member of management is willing to spend the necessary time, effort, energy, and money, it will not be accomplished. The time involved is...365 days per year....� This is only one of many jaw-dropping tidbits from Featherstone�s piece.

The SF Court of Appeals has not commented on Wal-Mart�s request for a review yet, but hopefully this case will go forward as a class-action suit that can begin to chip away at the bad labor practices that have been institutionalized by the world�s largest employer.


Posted by Emily Udell

[...]

There is more on the same page, however nothing else on the page I came across at the time was related to Wal-Mart or the class action court case in question.

Posted by Morgan at 8:46 PM

June 14, 2004

More on WM Unionization in Canada

Investor's Business Daily has a good roundup:

The application of Terrace Wal-Mart employees to join UFCW Canada is part of a broader momentum building against the giant retailer from workers and communities across Canada and the United States.

Employees at a Wal-Mart in Thompson, Manitoba conducted a vote last week on joining UFCW Canada. The results of that vote have not yet been released pending labour board rulings in Manitoba. Wal-Mart employees in Weyburn and North Battleford, Saskatchewan are also currently in the process of joining UFCW Canada.

UFCW Local 1518 represents 26,000 workers in the retail, commercial, industrial and health care industries in B.C.

UFCW Canada is one of Canada's largest and most respected private sector unions with more than 230,000 members across the country, working in every aspect of the food industry, as well as other service, commercial, processing, manufacturing, technical and professional occupations.

Posted by Kevin at 8:14 AM

June 10, 2004

More WM in Manitoba

Two great videos on the last time the UFCW tried to unionize the Thompson WM in Manitoba. First is a documentary on union preparation for the 2003 vote (18:45), and second is a news report about WM contesting the vote (2:16).

Posted by Kevin at 12:48 PM

June 9, 2004

WM in Manitoba, Canada

Reader Julie Eisenband emailed, asking about the results of the June 4, 2004 vote in Manitoba, Canada on whether a local WM should be unionized. Unfortunately, I have no information about this vote.

But it is important to note that this is the second attempt by the United Food and Commercial Workers to unionize the Thompson store. The first attempt last year failed by a narrow margin of 61 to 54. Last time the vote count was delayed because WM objected to the voting procedure, and the union responded by saying that WM illegally influenced its workers who had previously indicated that a majority would join the union.

Posted by Kevin at 7:47 PM

May 11, 2004

Unions Sue City, Challenge WM

Unions have sued Gilroy, CA, saying that its approval of a WM supercenter violates state environmental and economic blight laws. :


In March, Council sifted through nearly three hours of economic, environmental and ethical arguments before voting 5-2 to allow Wal-Mart to move from its existing Wal-Mart store on Arroyo Circle to the big-box enclave at Pacheco Pass Center off Highway 152 and U.S. 101.
Some of the stipulations required of WM border on the asinine:
When Council approved the Supercenter in March, it did so with a list of 10 conditions the store would have to meet. The conditions ranged from providing a children�s play room with information on protecting the environment to sponsoring seminars that teach small business owners how to compete with the retail giant.

Posted by Kevin at 5:18 PM

May 10, 2004

The Unions are Closing In

Businesspundit notes a subscription-only Fortune article on attempts to unionize WM:

Wal-Mart is the nation's largest employer, and not a single one of its 1.3 million workers ("associates" in Wal-Martese) is a union member. Changing that statistic, some union leaders argue, is the labor movement's most important challenge right now. "If we want to survive," says Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, "labor has no choice but to organize Wal-Mart." Though individual unions usually do not band together across turf lines for organizing drives, discussions are now underway across the labor community about what they call "the Wal-Mart problem." "What they do affects the standard of living across the globe," explains Acuff, referring to the retailer's ability to force...
What they have done is raise the standard of living across the globe. The massive increase in the Chinese middle class might have something to do with the usually well-noted statistic that 85% of WM goods are produced in China. In the US, WM has lowered the wages of unionized grocery clerks; as a result, people who would have become grocery clerks are finding other means of employment at equivalent or higher wages--just not in grocers. (No, their real wages are NOT decreasing).

The Businesspundit has some more material than is available for free.

Posted by Kevin at 10:49 AM