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2004-10-17
St.Hyancinthe, Que. Wal-Mart Facing Another Unionized Store

Wal-Mart may not provide its workers with a living wage and benefits, but it provides its managers wih a "toolbox" designed to keep the company "union free." Wal-Mart's word game is that "We are not anti-union, we are pro-associate...We do not believe there is there is a need for third-party representation." In this confidential "toobox," Wal-Mart tells its managers "how to remain union free in the event union organizers choose your facility as their next target." Wal-Mart even has a union hotline phone number for managers to call when union activity occurs. That hotline must be heating up these days in Quebec, Canada, there Wal-Mart workers in two stores have been pushing the union issue. In St. Hyacinthe, about 37 miles east of Montreal, workers have filed for a union with the Quebec Labor Relations Board. The same Board granted certification for a union local at a Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere in early August, after a majority of workers there signed membership cards. Jonquiere is about 2. 5 hours north of Quebec City. In Jonquiere, more than half the workers signed membership cards, enough for the provincial labor board to certify a union without a vote and instruct the two sides to negotiate a contract. Union workers there are trying to reach a contract agreement with Wal-Mart. One worker at the retail store at Jonquiere told the Associated Press that negotiating over pay and scheduling issues with Wal-Mart was very difficult. "Wal-Mart wants to be rich, but it won't share," the worker said. This week, Andrew Pelletier, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, warned, "If we are not able to reach a collective agreement that is reasonable and that allows the store to function efficiently and ultimately profitable, it is possible that the store will close." Wal-Mart claims that its workers now average $9.96 an hour, or $18,716 a year, assuming a 36 hour work week. Roughly 375,000 Wal-Mart workers work less than 36 hours per week. Wal-Mart admits that 46% of its workers leave each year, which means that every two years almost the entire workforce at Wal-Mart has come and gone. Workers at the Jonquiere store complained that store managers locked workers inside the store after closing until they restocked shelves -- time they were not paid for. Wal-Mart is now saying the Jonquiere store suffers from a "fractured environment," and that the store is losing money. When meatcutters in a Jacksonville, Texas Wal-Mart unionized, Wal-Mart simply moved to pre-packaged meat. An appeal of that decision is still before the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. The United Auto Workers unionized workers in Windsor, Ontario, but that effort never led to a contract. In Weyburn, Saskatchewan, membership cards were submitted to the government, but the effort is tied up in several court suits. But a contract at Jonquiere could make a big difference. "For the first time Wal-Mart will have to sit with us at the negotiation table," says Louis Bolduc, who directs the union's activities in Quebec province. "We're not going to let them play with us."


What you can do: U.S. law requires a union to get signatures from at least 30% of all workers in the store before they can petition the National Labor Relations Board for an election, Wal-Mart tells its managers. "If a union obtains more than 50% of associates' signatures on authorization cards, they may attempt to bypass an election and ask the NLRB to be recognized as the associates' bargaining agent because they have a majority of signatures. In the event you find a union authorization card in your facility or hear associates are attending union meetings and signing authorization cards, it is imperative you contact the Union Hotline immediately." The Wal-Mart "manager's toolbox" is marked "confidential", and managers are warned not to give out the union hotline number to "anyone outside Wal-Mart." But the number is printed in the toolbox manual. For other stories on this subject, search by "union."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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