Colorado Wal-Mart Auto Service Workers to Vote on Union

LOVELAND, Colo. -- Workers in the auto service department at the Wal-Mart here will vote Friday, Feb. 25 on whether they want to be represented by a union.

About 20 workers in the Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express (TLE) part of the store will be eligible to vote. The election only covers that department. If a majority of the workers approve, TLE employees will be represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, the largest labor organization in Colorado.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, the election will be held at the Wal-Mart store at Highway 119 and Denver Avenue from 8 a.m. till 10 a.m. The ballot is secret. Votes will be counted and the result announced later that morning.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled earlier that the auto repair and tire operation was separate and distinct from the rest of the store, so workers have the right to organize separately from the rest of the store.

Nine of the 17 TLE shop workers signed cards requesting a union vote last year. Wal-Mart opposed such a vote, saying everyone in the store had to participate in an election.

TLE employees have won the right to vote in five other U.S. Wal-Marts, but there has not been an election yet, which the UFCW attributes to stalling tactics and intimidation by Wal-Mart. Although Wal-Mart believes that the Loveland TLE is too small to be considered a separate unit and that all associates at the store should have a voice in the matter, Wal-Mart spokeswoman Christi Gallagher told Progressive Grocer, "We're looking forward to the election."

Gallagher likened the ongoing events in Loveland to what she termed "a nearly identical situation" at a TLE in Lake Elsinore, Calif., where 19 associates were about to vote in a union election in April 2001. "In the hours leading up to the election, UFCW leaders filed multiple charges against Wal-Mart and blocked the election, taking the decision out of the associates' hands," a Wal-Mart statement recounted. "The UFCW claimed. . .that Wal-Mart had coerced and intimidated associates into rejecting union membership." All charges were eventually dismissed by the NLRB, and "about two weeks later the union withdrew their petition because they realized that they did not have the support needed to win an election," according to Gallagher.

Workers at seven Canadian Wal-Mart TLEs have already won union representation.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 represents 23,000 grocery store and food manufacturing workers, as well as medical professionals, in Colorado.
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