Thursday, February 10, 2005


Wal-Mart Stores has a reputation for being extremely aggressive when it comes to fighting unionization. I've heard stories about teams of corporate types from the Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters spending several days at stores where there have been mentions of possible organizing to head off any such efforts, meeting with employees in groups to promote the advantages of keeping unions out of their stores.

In Canada, the United Food and Commercial Workers have been somewhat more successful. But Wal-Mart has decided to close one of it's first two unionized stores in North America, in Jonquiere, Quebec, northwest of Montreal. The decision came after UFCW applied to the Quebec Labor Relations Commission for it's first contract arbitration, acknowledging that the two sides were far apart and unlikely to reach agreement. The company says the decision was made because the union's demands would make the store too unprofitable to keep open.

The other unionized Wal-Mart, also in Quebec, won union certification last month. However, Wal-Mart is challenging the certification claiming the vote was undemocratic and that employees were not offered a chance to vote by secret ballot.

In reality, I believe that workers on this side of the border were looking closely at what was happening in Canada, in hopes that the union efforts would be successful enough to lead similar attempts at unionization here. Wal-Mart knew that, and decided to put it's line in the sand once and for all: that it would close stores before allowing any union to gain a foothold in it's organization.


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