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January 12, 2004

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report from Las Vegas

Las Vegas — The nation’s largest retailer continues to violate its worker’s rights. Wal-Mart faces new complaints and will have to defend itself before an NLRB judge for its illegal intimidation, harassment, and retaliation against workers organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For three years, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers in Las Vegas have been working to organize for a voice on the job and better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Continually breaking the law to silence them, Wal-Mart’s “”Peoples Division”” has systematically suppressed workers’ legal right to exercise a democratic free choice for union representation.

Larry Allen, a former Wal-Mart Supercenter produce clerk at their Eastern & Serene office in Henderson, Nevada, was fired after giving testimony to the NLRB and spending two of his vacation days to speak alongside Democratic presidential candidates in a forum on health care at the UFCW Convention in San Francisco in August 2003. His dismissal followed a well-documented track record of intimidation and coercion at the Eastern & Serene Supercenter.

The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a hearing to begin February 10, 2004. The case charges that Wal-Mart managers:

Ø Prohibited employees from talking about the union and distributing information in break rooms and on store property;

Ø Made employees feel that they were under surveillance for union activities;

Ø Asked employees to spy on co-workers on behalf of the company;

Ø Refused to allow union representatives on the property;

Ø Confiscated union literature from employees and threatened workers with reprisals for accepting literature;

Ø Asked the police to remove union organizers from the property;

Ø And illegally fired Larry Allen for his pro-union support.

Wal-Mart’s attempt to use Mr. Allen as an example to intimidate other employees underscores the company’s discriminatory policies. The NLRB complaint states that Wal-Mart has been “”interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees”” in the exercise of their rights.

Larry Allen was fired fighting for his rights. He is one of a growing number of Wal-Mart workers bravely raising their voices for the rights of all workers.

The 1.4 million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) is America’s neighborhood union representing workers in neighborhood grocery stores across the country. UFCW puts dinner on the table for America’s families with members working in meatpacking and food processing. UFCW gives a voice to care with representation for nurses, medical technicians and nursing home workers.

October 15, 2003

Gephardt Health Care Stance Wins Support From

OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 11, 2003

Gephardt Health Care Stance Wins Support From

Nation’s Largest Private Sector Union

 

 

Davenport, Iowa—Today, the nation’s largest private sector union, and the largest union in Iowa, put the support of its 1.4 million members behind Dick Gephardt for President.  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union endorsed the Gephardt campaign based on his plan to protect the employer-based health care system in the U.S.

The UFCW is at the forefront of the fight to protect health care at work for millions of working families.  This weekend, UFCW is leading more than 70,000 supermarket employees on strike in Southern California to fight back against employer demands to destroy health benefits for workers and their families.  In the meatpacking industry, UFCW members have been on strike since February 28, 2003, at Tyson Foods in Jefferson, Wisconsin, to stop Tyson from slashing health care for the 470 workers.  In St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 retail food workers are on the picket line fighting back against a similar employer demand that would threaten workers’ medical benefits.

“Most Americans get health care at work, and we want to keep it that way  because the UFCW believes if you do the work, you’ve earned affordable health care,” said UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer Joe Hansen.

“If you have medical benefits at work, the Gephardt plan will make sure you keep them and that they stay affordable,” continued Hansen.  “If you work, but don’t get benefits, the Gephardt plan will make sure you do.”

The endorsement was based on UFCW members’ views on working family issues in the context of the 2004 presidential election.

Research, conducted by the Wilson Center for Public Research, shows that UFCW members feel the government should take action to deal with:

·         Rapidly rising health care costs (94%)

·         44 million Americans without health insurance (91%)

·         Employer demands for cuts in medical benefits (87%)

 

In addition, 97% of those polled felt that a candidate’s position on protecting health care at work was important—75% said it was crucial—to making a decision about their choice for President in 2004.

These  perceptions reflect the views of the cashier moms, a key demographic in next year’s election.  UFCW membership mirrors the general workforce population in every category—gender, race, age, and marital status, making UFCW member views a snapshot of those held by millions of working people around the country.

 

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The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers in the supermarket, meatpacking, poultry, food processing, health care, chemical, textile and garment, distillery, and other industries. 

September 16, 2003

Wal-Mart Workers’ Right to Talk Union on Job Upheld By Judge

Wal-Mart’s effort to silence workers through a ‘no solicitation’ policy its managers interpret as prohibiting any talk about union organizing is blatantly illegal, a National Labor Relations Board Judge has ruled in a case involving the Wal‑Mart Supercenter in Aiken, South Carolina.

Administrative Law Judge John West also found that Wal‑Mart illegally used wage increases for 89 employees at the first sign of union activity to take away one reason the workers were organizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union.

The judge ordered the company to admit the purpose of the wage increases in a posting for employees was to influence them not to join a union.  This was contrary to Wal‑Mart spokesman Bill Wertz’s insistence to a reporter in February that the judge would order the wage increases rescinded, showing that the union was “”acting in a way contrary to the interest of those associates,”” Wal‑Mart’s term for employees.

“”Judge West has given Wal‑Mart workers everywhere the roadmap to a wage increase: start talking about forming a union on the job,”” said UFCW Executive Vice President Michael E. Leonard, Director of the union’s Strategic Programs Department.

The ALJ’s ruling said that Wal-Mart workers discussing the union at work is not “soliciting by any stretch of the imagination.”   Federal law gives workers the right to organize for a voice on the job. Wal-Mart has taken drastic steps to silence its workers and deny them the opportunity to participate in the democratic process to make a choice for a voice at work.

Aiken Wal-Mart workers Barbara Hall and Kathleen MacDonald were frustrated by Wal-Mart’s low wages and set out to try and organize their co-workers.   Hall and MacDonald talked to their co-workers about the union and asked people if they could call them after work.  Wal-Mart managers and Bentonville “People Managers” descended on the store with their usual carrot and stick approach to union busting – silencing some workers by giving them a bump in wages and then disciplining vocal union supporters.

The ALJ said, “To ask and employee for their telephone number to discuss the union, if the employee is interested, after work is not soliciting by any stretch of the imagination.”

Wal-Mart has used its ‘no solicitation’ policy in stores across the country to intimidate workers from talking about the union and attempts to use the policy as an excuse to discipline or fire workers who it suspects are union supporters.  Larry Allen, a Wal-Mart worker from Las Vegas, was fired in August for supposedly violating the ‘no solicitation’ policy.  Allen had traveled to San Francisco to talk with reporters at the UFCW International Convention about Wal-Mart’s lousy health insurance plan for workers.  After returning to work, Allen was singled out and fired by Wal-Mart.  His case is pending before the NLRB.

Over the past four years, Wal-Mart has changed its ‘no solicitation’ policy at least four times – each change based on a legal ruling against them that its policy is illegal.  Charges are pending before the NLRB that the current policy violates workers’ rights.

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Read the ruling (pdf)

August 20, 2003

Organizing Movement Grows Among Wal-Mart Workers

Worker efforts to get a voice on the job at Wal-Mart stores in North America are gaining ground. Canadian Wal-Mart workers in Thompson, Manitoba, narrowly lost their efforts to get a voice on the job with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) – 61 to 54. The election signals a growing movement of workers ready to stand up for a better future at Wal-Mart.

The Thompson, Manitoba, vote was the first opportunity for an entire store of Wal-Mart workers to vote as a group. Several recent union elections at U.S. Wal-Mart stores have been blocked by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) due to Wal- Mart’s illegal actions to intimidate workers and suppress their efforts to get UFCW representation.

Wal-Mart used its union busting campaign in Manitoba like it has in stores across the United States – pulling out all the stops to harass, intimidate and threaten workers from exercising their fundamental democratic freedom to choose union representation. Time and time again, Wal-Mart has thumbed its nose at federal law and used illegal tactics to suppress workers’ voices – threatening to close the store, harassing union supporters, spying on worker activities or firing union supporters.

Last Saturday, Wal-Mart fired night stocker Kelvin Blackman after he appeared at a NLRB hearing about holding a union election at his Clinton, Maryland Wal-Mart store. UFCW Local 400 filed charges and Blackman’s co-workers stood behind him. Wal-Mart felt the pressure from its workers and reinstated Blackman less than 48 hours later. Wal-Mart are seeing that they aren’t alone, that they have the support of their communities and that when they stand together they can win.

Despite Wal-Mart’s scare tactics, the Manitoba workers showed real courage and demonstrated that workers across the U.S. and Canada are gaining the strength to stand up and take action for better wages, benefits and working conditions at the world’s biggest corporation.

“”The Manitoba vote shows that around the globe…in the U.S., Canada, Germany, whereever Wal-Mart operates…workers need and want a union voice to make the company live up to its promises of good wages and great working conditions,”” said Mike Leonard, UFCW Executive Vice President and Director of Strategic Programs. “”Thsi is a movement that can’t be stopped. There will be more union elections at Wal-Mart and workers are going to win.””

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August 8, 2003

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report From Texas and Arkansas

Loss prevention workers investigate incidences of theft at Wal-Mart—and now the U.S. District Court is seeking to determine if Wal-Mart’s stole overtime pay from these very same workers.

Judge T. John Ward has ordered Wal-Mart to disclose time records – including time clock archive reports and associate time card swipe data, time clock punch exemption reports, punch error reports, activity logs, week-to-date hours and expense summaries, and associates charged to the 945 account/PR404 – for all workers at Arkansas and Eastern Texas Wal-Mart stores. These records will be used to determine if workers—who were permitted to work overtime – put in extra hours without compensation.

Wal-Mart is required to turn over these time records within thirty days of the order, which is dated July 30, 2003. In addition, the Court has selected fifteen Texas and Arkansas Wal-Mart stores at random which must report the identities of and documentation for in-store loss prevention associates employed form September 13, 1999 to September 13, 2002, to determine if these workers were unfairly denied overtime pay.

The fifteen cities are: Tyler, Texarkana, Mt. Pleasant, Longview, Plano, Beaumont, Marshall, Center, Sherman/Denison, and Lufkin in Texas; and Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Cabot, and Hot Springs in Arkansas.

The loss prevention associates are being represented by attorneys Michael Ace of Tyler, Tex., and Patrick M. Flynn of Houston.

Download the Order (PDF)

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For more information, contact Patrick M. Flynn at 713-861-6163 or Michael Ace at 903-595-1552

August 5, 2003

Las Vegas Wal-Mart Worker to Share Spotlight with Presidential Candidates

(Las Vegas) – Wal-Mart underestimated Larry Allen when it fired him last Friday in retaliation for his union activity. Tonight, Mr. Allen has the ear of key Democratic Presidential candidates following the AFL-CIO’s national working families Democratic presidential forum in Chicago.

Allen is joining thousands of union members on Tuesday, August 5th from 8:00-9:30 p.m. E.T. at Chicago’s Navy Pier where the candidates are responding to questions posed by workers. C-Span will broadcast the forum.

Allen is a produce clerk at the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Eastern & Serene in Henderson, Nevada. He began work there in May, 2002, and got involved in the effort to organize for a voice on the job in September.

Allen took two vacation days to attend United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Convention in San Francisco and participate in a presidential health care forum on August 1, 2003 with five Democratic presidential candidates who were critical of Wal-Mart’s inadequate health insurance. Allen spoke with reporters before the forum to give a background perspective the health care crisis.

When Allen returned to work on Friday, he was summarily fired on the pretext that he violated the company’s no-solicitation policy. He was fired “”pending investigation.”” Wal-Mart’s own policy requires a complete investigation before an employee is terminated. Wal-Mart’s labor relations’ policy dictates that no personnel action can be taken in a store with union activity without approval and involvement of the Bentonville, Arkansas-based labor relations “”people”” division.

He has always been a reliable, hard-working employee who received a good evaluation in April. His only brushes with discipline came when he confronted a co-worker who he believed was sexually harassing his wife — Allen told him to “”knock it off.”” Allen was written up. A couple months ago, a manager took him aside and told him that he really shouldn’t be passing out union cards in the break room. But federal law and Wal-Mart’s store policy protects workers from retaliation from union activity in “”non-work areas”” including break rooms.

Before his wife got a job in a union supermarket and became eligible for health insurance through her employer, Allen went without. He worked full-time at Wal-Mart but couldn’t afford to buy the company’s health plan. In January, 2003, Allen started feeling odd and sought treatment at an emergency clinic. He was in the beginning stages of having a stroke and was treated in the Intensive Care unit for five days. Health care workers saved his life, even though he couldn’t pay for their services. Luckily, he had a full recovery and suffers no effect from the stroke. He takes prescription medicine now to help prevent another incidence – medicine that would cost him more than $300 per month. Thanks to his wife’s employer-provided health insurance, he pays a small fraction of that bill $8.00. He will spend the rest of his life trying to pay back the more than $30,000 he owes to the hospital.

Wal-Mart workers in Las Vegas and across the country are standing up for a voice on the job with the UFCW. The Las Vegas workers have set up their own website — www.walmartworkerslv.com

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart Bull Buster

FACT: Wal-Mart consistently refuses to divulge wage rates when challenged for data by journalists and researchers. Yet it doesn’t hesitate to make outrageous claims about good wages and benefits without proving it with facts.

Wal-Mart workers are paid an average wage of $7.62/hour based on BLS data.

The BLS Employment and Earnings Survey lists average earnings by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) Code. Wal-Mart is part of SIC Code 5331 for Variety Stores along with other major companies like Costco, K-Mart, Target, and Dollar General.

Wal-Mart dominates 56% of the discount store industry sales. The Chain Store Guide reported that in this industry in 2002, Wal-Mart (including its Sam’s Club stores) had $168.5 billion in U.S. sales out of $303.9 billion in total industry sales. Therefore, BLS average wage for the industry statistically cannot vary much from the average wage and earnings for Wal-Mart workers.

 

Grocery workers are paid an average of $10.35/hour based on BLS data.

 

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) reported in 2002 that United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union-represented workers in the supermarket industry earned 31% more than their non-union counterparts. Women have a 33% advantage with UFCW representation.

IWPR research showed that UFCW-represented supermarket workers are two-and-a-half times as likely to have pension coverage than non-union workers and twice as likely to have health insurance coverage than retail food workers without union representation.

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart Snatches Domain Name to Block Union Talk

Wal-Mart claims its associates can speak for themselves.  Why then did the retail giant seize the internet domain name www.unionizewalmart.com?  Simple, to prevent workers from using the web address to build a movement for a voice on the job.

“”Wal-Mart’s actions show what the company is truly afraid of—an organized workforce.  Wal-Mart associates deserve the right to have a voice for fair treatment, living wages and decent family health benefits and the union is going to keep fighting to help them get there,”” said Mike Leonard, Executive Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).

Wal-Mart workers haven’t been discouraged.  Worker-run websites are building t a nationwide worker-to-worker network among Wal-Mart associates that is growing.  A community-wide Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club organizing campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada, sparked the worker website: www.walmartworkerslv.com that is run by the in-store organizing committee and has inspired other sites across the country.

Several others sites of note include:

www.walmartyrs.com and www.walmartwatch.com– both sponsored by the UFCW.

www.walmartswaronworkers.com – featuring former Wal-Mart managers describing illegal tactics they were taught to use against union organizing.

www.therighttochoose.com — run by a former Sam’s Club associate in Lansing, Michigan.

www.walmartworkerstexas.com – run by current and former Wal-Mart workers.

www.walmartdayofaction.com – central site for the People’s Campaign- Justice @ Wal-Mart

August 4, 2003

WAL-MART’S WAR ON WORKERS: JUDGE ORDERS REINSTATEMENT, BACKPAY FOR WAL-MART WORKER

(Kingman, Arizona) – Wal-Mart has been forced to reinstate a worker from its Kingman, Arizona Tire and Lube Express department and provide him back pay. An administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ordered Wal-Mart to rehire Brad Jones who was fired on February 28, 2002 in retaliation for his efforts to organize a union and compensate him with back pay.

A majority of the 18 associates working in the Tire and Lube Express at the Kingman, Arizona Wal-Mart Supercenter signed cards authorizing the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 99R to give them an organized voice on wages, health benefits, scheduling and working conditions. The UFCW filed a petition with the NLRB for a secret ballot union representation election in August, 2000.

The NLRB blocked the election due to Wal-Mart’s systematic intimidation and other illegal activities against its workers. But Wal-Mart’s campaign against the union supporters didn’t end. Brad Jones, one of three leaders in the union effort at the store, was a “”marked man,”” according to the ALJ.

The judge found that Store Manager, Jim Winkler, had targeted the three outspoken union supporters by directing supervisors to hold them to a higher standard and “”wait for them to screw up.”” Two employees left and the third, Jones, was singled out by management. Jones was fired two days after receiving a good yearly performance review which included a 4% salary increase.

During the campaign, the judge found that Wal-Mart illegally monitored workers by placing an inexperienced manager from Bentonville, Arkansas in the department to fill a vacancy. The executive had no experience as was unable to work alongside the TLE employees as the job required. His assignment, it seemed, was to carry out surveillance on the workers, a clear violation of their federal rights.

The judge’s ruling also found that Wal-Mart failed to enforce its non-harassment policy when an anti-union worker was harassing two union supporters. The victims suffered from their colleagues’ harassment about their weight and religious beliefs. Despite several appeals to management to protect the victims, Wal-Mart refused.

Wal-Mart’s illegal tactics in Kingman, Arizona exposed further illegal threats to workers across the country. The company’s “”Associate Benefits Book”” which outlines conditions for eligibility for various benefits expressly stated that associates represented by a union are not eligible for coverage. The Judge ordered that Wal-Mart reprint and amend its benefit book to reflect that union-represented workers’ benefits are determined through the collective bargaining process and that union-represented workers will remain eligible for benefits during bargaining.

Wal-Mart is also required to post notices in every location admitting its violations of the law and promising not to discriminate against union-represented workers. The ALJ decision in Kingman is the first time Wal-Mart has been ordered to make a national remedy to its illegal anti-union tactics.

August 4, 2003

WAL-MART’S WAR ON WORKERS:

(Kingman, Arizona) – Wal-Mart will be forced to reinstate yet another worker with full back pay and to notify its one million employees nationwide that it had committed an unfair labor practice as a result of a decision by an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Judge Gregory Z. Meyerson ordered Wal-Mart to rehire Brad Jones in the retail giant’s Kingman, Arizona, Tire and Lube Express (TLE) department. Jones was fired on February 28, 2002 in retaliation for his efforts to organize a union.

A majority of the “”associates””, as Wal-Mart calls employees, working in the TLE at the Supercenter had signed union authorization cards for United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 99 to give them an organized voice on wages, health benefits, scheduling and working conditions, and the NLRB had set a secret ballot union representation election for August, 2000.

The NLRB blocked the election, however, due to Wal-Mart’s systematic intimidation and other illegal tactics against its workers. But the company’s campaign against the union supporters didn’t end. Jones, one of three leaders in the union effort at the store, was a “”marked man,”” according to the ALJ.

The judge found that Store Manager, Jim Winkler, had targeted three outspoken union supporters by directing supervisors to hold them to a higher standard and “”wait for them to screw up.”” Two left and the third, Jones, was singled out by management. Jones was fired two days after receiving a good yearly performance review which included a 4% wage increase.

During the campaign, the judge found that Wal-Mart illegally monitored workers by placing a new manager in the department to carry out illegal surveillance on the workers’ union activities. The manager, who had no experience in an automotive service unit was unable to work alongside the TLE employees as the job required.

The judge also found that Wal-Mart failed to enforce its non-harassment policy against an anti-union worker who was harassing two union supporters. The victims suffered from their colleagues’ harassment about their weight and religious beliefs. Despite several appeals to management to protect the victims, Wal-Mart refused to enforce its policy, although one Bentonville executive insisted the company takes “”complaints of harassment seriously.””

Wal-Mart’s illegal tactics in Kingman, Arizona exposed further illegal threats to workers across the country. The company’s “”Associate Benefits Book”” which outlines eligibility for various benefits expressly stated that associates represented by a union are not eligible for benefits. The Judge ordered that Wal-Mart reprint and amend its benefit book to reflect that union-represented workers’ benefits are determined through the collective bargaining process and that union-represented workers will remain eligible for benefits during bargaining.

Wal-Mart is also required to post notices in every location admitting its violations of the law and promising not to discriminate against union-represented workers. The ALJ decision in Kingman is the first time Wal-Mart has been ordered to make a national remedy to its illegal anti-union tactics.