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A Union at Wal-Mart? If not now, when?



Miami Wal-Mart maybe Unionized?

From the Miami Herald:

Workers at a North Miami Beach Wal-Mart Supercenter are hoping to make their store one of the first Wal-Marts in the United States to unionize.

So far, workers say they have gathered signed pro-union cards from 150 of the store’s 476 employees. Under federal labor law, that’s just about enough for union supporters to demand a vote on unionization by all rank-and-file workers at the store.

Of course, this is Walmart we’re talking about here so the battle is not won yet:

But workers at the North Miami Beach store may have a long road ahead of them. They almost certainly will need to collect signed cards from a lot more than the 30 percent minimum required by law. That’s because Wal-Mart could ask federal labor officials to throw out some of the cards for various reasons.

Even if the National Labor Relations Board orders an election, companies typically try to delay as long as possible. Meanwhile, the company can order workers to attend anti-union meetings and watch anti-union videos on company time, while the unions may only drum up support among workers during breaks and off hours.

Pro-union workers say the company is harassing them, demanding to know the views of individual employees, and pressuring them to identify union supporters. Wal-Mart says it doesn’t engage in such practices, which would violate federal labor law.

But one of the reasons this time may be different is that more than a few Wal-Mart workers are willing to go public with their complaints. That’s a sign that Wal-Mart is losing its iron grip on its employees even as they need their jobs more than ever. Here are two brave soles quoted in the same article:

But union supporter Cheryl Guzman says management has targeted her.

”They call me into the office every other day,” said Guzman, a 15-year Wal-Mart employee. She said managers accused her of spreading rumors and soliciting co-workers to sign cards during work time, which she denies.

Eugene Hart Sr., a union supporter at the North Miami Beach store, said he thinks some of his co-workers may withdraw their support due to company pressure, but others will sign up to replace them.

”We had the whole store,” Hart said. “They got ‘em scared.”

Much as it might like to, Wal-Mart can’t fire everybody at the same time. Indeed, if the workers in North Miami Beach really had the whole store and if the Employee Free Choice Act were the law of the land (as I believe it will be eventually) there’d be a union there already. Nevertheless, I suspect that union supporters will eventually get a majority again as the economy gets even worse and their needs grow larger.

Yet even if the United Food and Commercial Workers union can’t organize in North Miami Beach, there are literally thousands of Wal-Mart stores that could organize at any moment. As the communist regimes in Eastern Europe learned in 1989, revolution can come swiftly when people finally catch a whiff of the sweet smell of freedom.

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May 1st, 2009 Posted by narsbars | Uncategorized | no comments

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