Texas Wal-Mart Workers Vote to Unionize

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Workers in the meat department at the Jacksonville, Texas Wal-Mart store, in a seven to three vote, has asked the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) to represent them marking the first successful union vote at the giant retailer.

Wal-Mart told CNSNews.com it will oppose the vote to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The vote at the Jacksonville store means roughly three percent of the store's 365 workers will be represented by the union.

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."

"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.

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

"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 said 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

But 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.

"Workers at the Palestine, Texas SuperCenter are not frightened or fooled. The Jacksonville workers have warned their colleagues down the road that Wal-Mart will try everything to delay the election like the company did in Jacksonville, but the Palestine workers are ready to make their voices heard," the union said in a statement released to CNSNews.com.

An NLRB hearing on the Palestine, Texas worker petition is set for Monday.