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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.

August 4, 2003

Kohl’s Workers Launch Grassroots Campaign to Save Their Stores

Hundreds of local Kohl’s supermarket workers are mobilizing the community to join a grassroots effort to keep the Kohl’s family of workers together. The workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Locals 1444 and 73A, face an uncertain future and fear losing their family’s health care now that Roundy’s has purchased the Kohl’s stores.

Consumers in the Madison and Dane County communities are receiving postcards from Kohl’s workers asking for their support in the campaign to protect worker’s jobs. Roundy’s is refusing to provide any assurances to the long-time Kohl’s workers–which could result in hundreds of local workers to lose their jobs and family health insurance.

“”Keep our Kohl’s family together,”” reads the postcard. “”Now Roundy’s has purchased Kohl’s– with no commitment to the working families who have made these stores part of our community. We could lose our family health care coverage.””

Roundy’s management is planning to close the Kohl’s stores before reopening as “”Copps”” (a Roundy’s subsidiary) in order to skirt federal labor law designed to protect workers in the event of a sale. Kohl’s workers have been notified that they must apply for positions at the Roundy’s stores, and will be forced to lose years of seniority, benefits and take significant wage reductions. Workers are facing a very uncertain and potentially devastating future now with Copps.

“”Our entire community depends on good jobs with quality family health care. Kohl’s workers are part of this community. Roundy’s should respect our community and respect these workers enough to honor their many years of quality service and retain the Kohl’s workers,”” said Daniel Welch, UFCW Local 1444 President.

The grassroots postcard campaign is the latest step in the grassroots effort to save good local jobs with family health insurance. Last week, twenty four Dane County Commissioners signed a letter calling on Roundy’s to retain the long-time local workers and maintain their wages and benefits.

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart’s War on Workers: Frontline Report From British Columbia

Wal-Mart’s Attack on the Union Cited in Canadian Labour Board Complaint

UFCW Wins Meeting with Workers on Company Time

When United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518 organizer David Noble referred to a Wal-Mart “”hit list”” of pro-union employees during an organizing campaign in a Quesnel, British Columbia, store, management responded with personal attacks on Noble and a denial that the list even existed. Wal-Mart portrayed Noble and the union as liars and told employees to call the police if union reps visited them at home.

As a result, the British Columbia Labour Board has slapped Wal-Mart for yet another violation of workers’ right to organize. The Board ruled that, not only was Noble justified in referring to such a hit list, but that Wal-Mart grossly interfered with the organizing campaign. The company, widely known in the U.S. for its anti-union practices, was attempting to hide its union-busting strategy with an attack on the credibility and truthfulness of the union itself.

The Labour Board found Wal-Mart’s attack on the union and the organizer unfounded and slammed Wal-Mart for their underhanded practices.

“”If Wal-Mart is concerned about this as an organizing tactic, then it should refrain from arbitrarily targeting employees for dismissal as an easy way to solve its people problems,”” the Board decision reads.

The decision is further evidence of Wal-Mart’s mission to silence its workers’ voices and keep its stores union-free. The company is searching high and low for ways to take the focus off of the way it treats its workers by trying to discredit union organizers dedicated to help Wal-Mart workers have a voice in the workplace.

“”There is no shortage of new mistakes that it [Wal-Mart] finds ways to make,”” the decision continues.

The Canadian Labour Board acted quickly to address Wal-Mart’s misdeeds with meaningful remedies that will help workers’ stand up for their rights on the job. Wal- Mart will have to read the decision during a meeting of all employees at the Quesnel store. In addition, the Board ordered Wal-Mart to allow UFCW Local 1518 to address workers for 30 minutes directly following the reading of the decision–allowing Wal-Mart workers the opportunity to hear about the benefits of unionization without interruption from their managers.

“”Wal-Mart’s war on workers is a war they conduct wherever the company operates,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”These are serious laws designed to protect workers, and Wal-Mart is quickly finding out that violating these laws brings serious repercussions.””

The decision by the British Columbia Labour Board comes on the heels of guilty verdicts found by the National Labor Board (NLRB) in the U.S. Wal-Mart was found in violation of U.S. labor law when the company fired, spied on, and intimated employees in several different stores. The NLRB has ordered Wal-Mart to read and post its decisions in its U.S. stores as a result of the violations.

“”Wal-Mart keeps insisting that it respects its associate’s rights,”” says Local 1518 President Brooke Sundin. “”But this behavior is typical of Wal-Mart all around North America. When workers exercise their legal right to talk to a union, Wal-Mart violates those rights.””

August 4, 2003

Wal-Mart Benefit Book Lies; Nearly a Million Workers Misled

Wal-Mart’s benefits book misled approximately a million workers with illegal language about exclusions to the plan – leading the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to support a lawsuit against the company on behalf of Wal-Mart associates. The lawsuit charges that the summary plan description, or Wal-Mart Associate Benefit Book, violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The Benefit Book is required by law to accurately and clearly inform associates about their benefits?but Wal-Mart is misleading workers with language inconsistent with benefit plan documents.

“”Wal-Mart will go to any length – even trying to make their employees fear losing their benefits – to stop workers from having a voice in their stores,”” says UFCW Executive Vice President Mike Leonard. “”It is a slap in the face of workers for Wal-Mart to lie about benefits to protect their own interests.””

Once union organizing began in stores around the country, Wal-Mart placed illegal language in its benefit book, stating that “” union represented associates”” are excluded from participation. Recently, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge ruled that the language violated the National Labor Relations Act. In the decision, the judge called the language, “”a not very subtle threat to its [Wal-Mart’s] employees that something unpleasant will happen to them if they organize, namely the loss of company benefits.””

David Rosenfeld has filed the lawsuit in San Francisco, charging that Wal-Mart is using its employee benefit book to further its anti-union campaign?rather than to accurately inform workers as ERISA requires. The lawsuit seeks, among other things, fixing the benefit book and notifying workers of their rights.

“”Wal-Mart has been trying to hold its benefits hostage in exchange for employees giving up their rights to organize,”” explains Leonard. “”We will do whatever it takes under the law to ensure that workers get the information they are entitled to about their benefits, and their right to organize.””

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