Saturday, October 09, 2010


A recent Labour Board decision has certified a Wal-Mart in Gatineau Québec as the second unionized Wal-Mart on the North American continent. The only other location now represented by a union is also in Québec in St. Hyacinthe. Previous attempts to unionize Wal-Mart in Québec and in locations as far afield as Texas and Weyburn Saskatchewan have been beaten back either legally or by the expedient of simply closing the outlet affected.

The latter is both a favoured threat and a favoured action on the part of Wal-Mart management. The largest example of this was when Wal-Mart decided to withdraw from the whole German market rather than tolerate unions in its stores in that country. The only country where Wal-Mart is happy to coexist with a unionized workforce is...China. In China's case the "union" is, of course, the official government controlled federation which takes its marching orders from the Communist Party. Nothing could be plainer in pointing out the ideological affinity of neo-conservative managerialism and it communist counterpart. Two sides of one coin.

This Board decision may benefit the workers involved only marginally as the wage increases stipulated were only minimal, and the biggest issue, the use and abuse of the part time system, remained outside the Board's decision. Still it shows that even the Wal-Mart colossus is not invulnerable. It is a shame that the unions involved in Wal-Mart organizing are not imbued with at least a minimum of the internationalism and industrial unionism of the anarcho-syndicalist unions or revolutionary syndicalist unions such as the IWW. Things would go much better then.

Be that as it may if you want to follow the misdeeds of Wal-Mart in more detail Molly can suggest the following sites: Wake Up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch. It`s almost a classic 'Perils of Pauline' series complete with evil top-hatted capitalist. A refreshing old fashioned morality play in an age when the corporate rulers more often than not adopt fuzzy "progressive" and "new age" public personae. Here`s the story from the CBC.
Quebec Wal-Mart workers get rare union deal
Only one other North American Wal-Mart has a collective agreement

CBC News
The contract covers more than 150 employees at the store on Boulevard du Plateau in Gatineau. (CBC) Workers at a Wal-Mart store in Gatineau, Que., have won a new collective agreement, only the second at any Wal-Mart store in North America — but not everyone is celebrating.

A government arbitrator imposed the agreement, after negotiations between the union and retailer were judged to be going nowhere.

The contract covers more than 150 employees at the store on Boulevard du Plateau. It took three years for the United Food and Commercial Workers to unionize the store, and another two years to get the contract.

"We had a first assembly last night to present the first collective agreement that was imposed by the Labour Board of Quebec," said union member Matthieu Allard.

He said the collective agreement gives employees a grievance process, recognizes statutory holidays and considers seniority in determining working hours.

Wages will go up 30 cents an hour this year, and another 30 cents next year. None of the employees, however, would say how much an hour they make now.

The arbitrator modeled it on the contract at the Wal-Mart in St-Hyacinthe, Que., the only other store with such an agreement.

"It might not have been as much as we could have gained in a normal negotiation process, but it's a definite step forward," Allard said.

Some employees at the store think otherwise.

In the parking lot outside the store, Denise Barre said she and her coworkers are disappointed with a 30-cent-an-hour raise, especially when it means paying union dues.

She said only 13 of the 150 employees went to Wednesday night's meeting with the union, which she says shows employees aren't interested.

Barre said she doesn't need this contract.

She said Wal-Mart treats her well and gives her benefits.

In a statement, the company also pointed out that the arbitrator found its wages competitive with other retailers, and adopted the wage scale Wal-Mart proposed.

The union said employees at the store were concerned by Wal-Mart's previous actions at unionized stores, but the Gatineau location is busy, and they hope Wal-Mart will not close it

In 2005, Wal-Mart closed a store in Jonquiere, Que., days before an arbitrator imposed a contract for its employees. The employees took Wal-Mart to court over the closure but lost their case.

In 2008, Wal-Mart also closed a tire shop on Maloney Boulevard in Gatineau after its employees received union certification.

The new agreement has a start date back in 2008, which means the union will be back to negotiating next year.

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