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Windsor, Ont. Wal-Mart Workers Vote Against Union

WINDSOR, Ont. -- Wal-Mart associates here have voted against unionization by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) by a margin of 74 percent. On Tuesday, workers in the union's proposed bargaining unit voted 167 to 59 against union certification, marking the fourth time in less than two years that Canadian employees have rejected UFCW representation, according to Wal-Mart.

During the Windsor campaign Wal-Mart and the UFCW accused each other of unfair labor practices, including intimidation of associates. According to UFCW Canada spokesman Michael Forman, the union has filed charges against Wal-Mart with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which should rule on the matter in about a month. Forman told Progressive Grocer that he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the vote, noting that "the campaign really got chilled" when Wal-Mart said it was closing the unionized Jonquiere, Quebec store for financial reasons. Forman believes that Wal-Mart meant the closing as a "warning shot across the bow" to let employees know what to expect if they voted to unionize.

In a statement Wal-Mart Canada, based in Mississauga, Ont., said: "[The] vote result follows a clear pattern of Wal-Mart Canada associates voting against union representation when given the chance to express their views in a democratic, secret-ballot process." The company added that the result didn't include over 50 additional ballots cast at Wal-Mart's request by hourly store associates whom it claimed were undemocratically excluded from the vote by the UFCW. Wal-Mart Canada has asked the labor board to include those workers in the vote.

The retailer also noted an assault by a union organizer on an associate earlier this month. According to the union, the organizer acted in self-defense.

"Wal-Mart is committed to being a great place to work and has been consistently ranked Canada's best retail employer," the company's statement read.

In other labor relations news, more than three years after Glen's Market workers in Oscoda, Mich. voted for representation with Madison Heights, Mich.-based UFCW Local 876, on Feb. 25 the National Labor Relations Board certified the vote, ruling the employer's objections to the election lacked merit.

"This has been a long battle for the workers at Glen's in Oscoda, and the board's ruling is a great win for them," Local 876 president Victoria Collins noted yesterday in a statement. UFCW Local 876 represents more than 22,000 workers in eastern and northern Michigan who work at Kroger, Farmer Jack, Rite Aid, and numerous other commercial worksites, including meatpacking plants.

Following the Oscoda vote in January 2002, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spartan Stores, which owns and operates the 34-store Glen's Market banner, filed objections with the NLRB to block certification of the election. In March 2002 the NLRB ruled that the employer's objections lacked merit, and ordered the election results certified. Spartan Foods appealed this decision, sending the case to the NLRB office in Washington, D.C., where a ruling took nearly three years.

Spartan v.p. of corporate affairs Jeanne Norcross told PG: "The election results have been in dispute because of the improper involvement of supervisory employees in the voting process. We disagree with the decision of the NLRB, and we will pursue resolution through proper legal channels."
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