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2005-02-26
Montreal, Canada. Wal-Mart Told To Stop Harassing Its Workers

On the same day that Wal-Mart was crowing about an anti-union vote at its store in Loveland, Colorado, just over the border in Quebec, Canadian officials were ordering the company to stop harassing its workers who want to unionize. In the Colorado case, 20 Wal-Mart workers in their Tire & Lube Express store in Loveland had asked for a union vote, but after they got approval from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January, they held a secret-ballot election, and 18 of those same workers voted against representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. So what happened in the 4 week period between the request for the vote and the actual vote? For one thing, Wal-Mart may have succeeded in scaring the Loveland workers by shutting down a store in Jonquiere, Quebec when it unionized. For another, Wal-Mart aggressively goes after every employee who wants to unionize. Every store manager has a "Manager's Toolbox" manual they use to attack union organizing. The company provides each manager with an anti-union hotline to call for advice, plus a team that will fly in to hold down any unionization effort. The result? In just 4 weeks, the Loveland workers backed down. Wal-Mart could not restrain its exuberance. "The UFCW has tried to organize our associates for years," said Wal-Mart's vice president of labor relations. "However, many of our associates are former union members -- they know better than anyone that the only guarantee a union can make is that it will cost the members money -- and that is why they continue to reject the UFCW." Wal-Mart said the union was also stopped in a second vote at a tire and auto maintenance shop in New Castle, Pennsylvania. But the same day it was boasting about Loveland, Wal-Mart was charged with intimidating its employees who try to form a union, by the Quebec Labor Relations Board. Board commissioner Louis Garant ruled that Wal-Mart Canada tried to hinder the formation of a union at a store in Sainte-Foy, a borough of the provincial capital, Quebec City. Garant said Wal-Mart intimidated three female employees, seeking to prevent them from exercising their rights under the labor code to form a union. The UFCW is trying to organize workers at more than a dozen of Wal-Mart's 235 stores in Canada, and currently represents workers at a Wal-Mart store in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, southeast of Montreal. Another store in Brossard, a Montreal suburb, has asked to be certified as a union.

What you can do: The Loveland story and the Quebec story are really one in the same. The vote in Loveland, which was requested by the workers, not the union, happened after a period of intense lobbying by Wal-Mart of its "associates." Canadian officials made it clear how Wal-Mart works to win such votes. It is charged with intimidating workers, and the outcome of such efforts is then described as a rejection of unionization. In fact, it may be more of an affirmation of intimidation as a tactic to use against workers scared about losing their limited income. For similar stories, search Newsflash by "union".










 
 
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