UFCW breakthrough at Wal-Mart in Quebec

JONQUIERE, Quebec (PAI) — The United Food and Commercial Workers broke through the Wal-Mart blockade on Aug. 3, becoming certified to represent 160-170 workers at the retailer’s supercenter in Jonquiere, Quebec. And this time, the decision will stick, as the Quebec Labour Relations Board scheduled an Aug. 20 hearing to decide exactly how many workers — and which ones — UFCW will represent. Under Quebec labor law, bargaining must then start, and the board can step in and impose a settlement if agreement is not reached within a reasonable time period, UFCW Canada National Director Michael Fraser told Press Associates Union News Service. The Quebec board certified UFCW at Jonquiere, which is 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of Quebec City, after a card-check drive gave the union a majority there. “In Quebec, certification is automatic if you demonstrate signed cards from 50 percent-plus-one of the members in the bargaining unit,” Fraser said. Even if some of the store’s 180 workers are not bargaining unit members — which will be determined in the Aug. 20 hearing — UFCW still has a majority, he said. UFCW’s win — its second at Wal-Mart in Canada, but the first that will lead to bargaining — is important because of the retailer’s size and influence. The union has a North America-wide organizing drive going at the million-plus worker behemoth. It is also important because Wal-Mart is so large and its market share is so huge that other retailers, especially grocers, use its competition as an excuse to try to match its below-market wages, bad benefits and lack of health care coverage. And Wal-Mart is also so large that it can dictate prices, and losses, to its suppliers, in turn driving those companies’ workers’ wages down, or driving the firms out of business. A previous UFCW/Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union win at the Wal-Mart in Windsor, Ontario, just east of Detroit, was thrown out by a later decertification vote. This win will stay, as Wal-Mart does not plan to close the Jonquiere supercenter. A UFCW win among meatcutters in a Wal-Mart Texas store several years ago fell through when the anti-union firm retaliated by abolishing all its meatcutting departments nationwide. “The Quebec certification shows that when workers’ rights are protected, Wal-Mart workers will exercise those rights for a voice at work,” said UFCW President Joseph Hansen.” Our challenge is to make sure that governments protect workers’ rights across Canada and the U.S. and around the world.” Besides Jonquiere, UFCW has organizing drives going at Wal-Marts in Saskatchewan, another store in Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba. Though all are governed by different provincial labor boards, Fraser says those boards and provincial labor laws share some common elements. Those include card-check recognition provisions, limiting companies to providing only factual information during union organizing drives, and automatic union recognition — even without a card-check majority — after illegal firings, intimidation and other labor law-breaking. “In all the provinces, there are sections of labor law that say every employee has the right to form a union without intimidation or reprisal from either the employer or the union,” Fraser added. “And if you can demonstrate a company has violated that principle, there will be recourse,” he emphasized.