March 13, 2009
Nine Years Later, a Broken System on Display in Texas
TYLER, TX – “”Yesterday, after nearly a decade of legal maneuverings and circumventions of federal law, Wal-Mart was finally forced to the bargaining table in Jacksonville, Texas. More than nine years ago, workers in the meat department in the Jacksonville Wal-Mart voted to be represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 540. What Wal-Mart proceeded to put these workers through was both unlawful and unconscionable.
“”In one of the company’s most audacious displays of hubris, Wal-Mart first ignored the workers, refusing to bargain with them or provide information to their union. Only after the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Wal-Mart did the company try to move the goalposts by claiming that workers in the meat department had lost their right to representation because the skilled meatcutting jobs had been replaced by a prepackaged meat program. Eight years and several legal battles later, Wal-Mart ran out of excuses when the United States Court of Appeals forced the company to bargain with these workers.
“”National and international law protect the right of workers to join a union of their choosing. When the outcome of an election is uncertain for this long in other countries, we call it a coup. When it happens here, it’s just another day on the job for the millions of American workers for whom a voice on the job is being unjustly denied. The story in Jacksonville, while particularly alarming, is far from the only one of its kind.
“”A multi-billion dollar war chest and a team of corporate lobbyists shouldn’t be prerequisites to the free exercise of federally-protected workplace rights. Without legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act, workers will continue to fight drawn-out, expensive, and – all too often – losing battles against multi-national corporate empires that see them as a liability to be minimized.
“”If ever there was a case that demonstrated how utterly bankrupt the current system is, the Jacksonville Wal-Mart case is it. It was not enough that a group of people in one of the least worker-friendly states in America had the courage to take on the least worker-friendly company in the world. It was not enough that they had to take their case before the National Labor Relations Board and the United States Court of Appeals. Even after clearing every hurdle Wal-Mart could throw in their path, these workers are still faced with a company across the table that has little legal incentive to deal with them fairly.””
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union represents more than 1.3 million workers in North America, primarily in the retail food, meatpacking, and food processing industries.
Key Events in the Jacksonville, TX, Wal-Mart Case
TIME ELAPSED BETWEEN INITIAL FILING & FIRST DAY OF BARGAINING:
9 years, 2 months, and 12 days
December 28, 1999 – The workers who staff the meat department at the Wal-Mart store in Jacksonville, Texas, file an election petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
February 16, 2000 – Over the objections of Wal-Mart, the NLRB holds an election. Seventy percent of the meat department workers vote for UFCW Local 540 as their bargaining representative.
August 9, 2000 – The NLRB certifies UFCW Local 540 as the representative of the meat department workers.
August 22, 2000 – The NLRB’s regional office issues a complaint alleging that Wal-Mart unlawfully refused to bargain with UFCW Local 540.
September 2000 – Wal-Mart first makes the claim that workers in the Jacksonville Wal-Mart meat department had lost their right to representation because skilled meatcutting jobs had been replaced by a prepackaged meat program.
June 2003 – An Administrative Law Judge with the NLRB found that Wal-Mart relieved itself of the obligation to bargain a contract with the workers due to the elimination of skilled meat cutting jobs, but that it had unlawfully refused to bargain with the workers over the effects of the prepackaged meat program.
September 2006 – The NLRB largely affirms the findings of the Administrative Law Judge.
March 14, 2008 – The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upholds the NLRB’s decision.
March 12, 2009 – The workers, representatives of UFCW and Wal-Mart sit down at the bargaining table for the first time.