Wal-Mart to Fight Union Vote

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A spokesperson for Wal-Mart told CNSNew.com it will fight all the way to the federal courts a recent vote by seven of its workers in one department of its Texas stores to prevent the first successful unionization effort at the giant retailer.

Wal-Mart said the majority of its associates do not want union representation.

The employees of the meat department in the Jacksonville, Texas Wal-Mart store voted seven to three in favor of being represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). Texas is a right to work state.

The vote at the Jacksonville store means around three percent of the store's 365 workers will be represented by the union.

"We're going to file an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and if necessary we will go to the courts. There are 359 associates in that store who were not allowed to voice their opinions and do not share the same sentiments of these seven associates," Jessica Moser, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart said in an interview with CNSNews.com.

The company has one week to provide the NLRB with evidence that the UFCW has engaged in unfair organizing practices. The labor board will then decide if a hearing should be held on the matter.

The UFCW has already filed charges against Wal-Mart for what the union called "threats, coercion and intimidation during the election campaign."

The union contends that Wal-Mart despite "its smiling face commercials, has shown the scowling face that hides beneath the smile and has issued statements pledging to fight the election results."

Wal-Mart is denying the charges.

"We know and they know that they [the UFCW] had no support in this store. Had this vote involved all our associates there the outcome would have been just the opposite. Half of those associates are very upset with this, they work in that store everyday and did not get a chance to speak their opinion," said Moser.

"We're certainly going to appeal this and feel when it is over we will win. And once again our associates will send a clear message that they do not need or want third party representation and that is the bottom line" Moser added.

However, UFCW officials said they are pleased with achieving the "first union victory for U.S. workers in Wal-Mart's history" and believe they will keep their union certification in the Jacksonville, Texas store.

"Their assertion [Wal-Mart] is that these meat department employees shouldn't be separated from the rest of the store. Our assertion, and what the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has already certified when we asked for this as a bargaining unit, is that meat department employees in supermarkets all over the country work under separate union contracts from the rest of the retail staff in a supermarket," Jill Cashen, a spokesperson for the UFCW told CNSNews.com.

"We feel confident that their appeal will not work and these folks will be certified as having voting for the union," Cashen said.

If the NLRB upholds the union vote then contract talks will begin sometime in the future according to Cashen.

Cashen claims the Wal-Mart union vote in Texas will begin a domino effect toward unionization of all of its stores, something the retailer is fighting to avoid.

"They have nearly a million employees nationwide and they're the largest private employer in America and none of their 850,000 workers have a union. This has a huge implication for this retailer who has denied workers a voice in the workplace since their company was started," said Cashen.

Additionally, 18 seafood and meat workers at a Wal-Mart store in Palestine, Texas have filed for a union vote with the NLRB for union representation with UFCW said Cashen who added that Wal-Mart is fighting that vote as well.

The union said it is ready for a fight to organize the Palestine, Texas Wal-Mart meat and seafood workers.

"We feel confident that the NLRB will rule [in Palestine, Texas] just like they did in Jacksonville that the meat department can be its own bargaining unit and you should go ahead with an election. So, unfortunately there will be some further legal delays in Palestine but we don't anticipate it taking more than another month or so to come to a final conclusion," Cashen said.

An NLRB hearing on the Palestine, Texas worker petition is set for Monday which Wal-Mart officials said they will voice their objections in the proceeding.

"Certainly we'll object because once again they're trying to limit the selection to a small handful of associates. They know again that they have little support and are trying to eliminate the majority of our associates from participating in that vote and that is simply wrong. If they cared about what was best for those associates they would want to hear from them all. But they don't, because they know they don't have the support," Moser told CNSNews.com.

But the union contends that they do have workers support.

"They filed for an election and the employer, as Wal-Mart did in Jacksonville, challenges the petition claiming that the meat department shouldn't be separated from the rest of the store," said Cashen.