Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Canadian Walmart Employees Win Right to Unionize

Posted in Uncategorized by allisonkilkenny on December 11, 2008

Daniel De Groot, Open Left

blogimage_walmartimage_1229012771jpg_thumbs_600x598_thumbs_200x199Per this DailyKos diary, a Wal-Mart store in Saskatchewan has won a 4-year battle with the company and is certified as unionized:

A Wal-Mart store in Weyburn, Saskatchewan has been granted union certification by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board (SLRB) after years of Wal-Mart legal wrangling and delays, including two Wal-Mart applications to the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn the process. 

This isn’t in Pepsi-drinking, poutine manging, socialisté Q-bec either, but rural Saskatchewan (which just elected 13 Conservatives to its 14 ridings).

Wal-Mart, naturally is not taking this in stride.

Wal-Mart Canada spokesman Andrew Pelletier said the decision is unjust because some employees didn’t get to vote on whether to unionize.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “Clearly, you know, our associates have been denied here a vote. They’ve been denied a democratic process. And we believe they should have that process.

Rhetoric sound familiar?  It should:

Wal-Mart Canada said it will appeal the ruling to unionize, pointing out that many of the employees who signed union cards no longer work at the Weyburn store.

“The fact that you’ve got a store now with 104 associates … and only 29 of them were even there at the time of the union’s application, really speaks to the fact that it would be a bit of a stretch to assume that there is widespread support for that store for this union,” said Andrew Pelletier, spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada.

Changes to Saskatchewan’s Trade Union Act this year made it a requirement that a secret ballot vote be held, open to all employees in the proposed bargaining unit, before a union can be certified.

Paul Meneima, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1400, said the decision to unionize the Weyburn store fits with the pre-2008 act,which allowed for union certifications when 50 per cent of employees, plus one, signed union cards.

Yup, Saskatchewan, in better times when it had an NDP government, had its own EFCA, which allowed a Wal-Mart in a conservative part of a fairly conservative province to unionize.  Now that it has a conservative government, bye bye card-check.  

Anyway, the company’s position seems to be “Since we fought to delay this so long that many of the original employees have moved on, we demand a new election under the new us-favouring rules.”  Nice.  I wonder how many of those departing employees left voluntarily?

The town’s mayor is worried Wal-Mart will close the store, which is a real risk, but unlike many other places, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of other places they could put a Wal-Mart nearby.  If they close, they’re likely abandoning this region of the province (and of course other retailers could move in).

A sad follow up on the 8 lube-shop workers who unionized at a store in Québec, Wal-Mart closed the garage in that store, saying it was losing money.  They apparently did keep the workers at least, though.

As for the Union (UFCW) they have pending cases with the Sask Labour Board to unionize two other stores in the Province.  Strength in numbers.  Wal-Mart can’t close every store down.  

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