In recent Wal-Mart news, a really disturbing precedent: A Canadian court overturned the UFCW certification granted to Wal-Mart workers in December 2008, keeping alive a five-year-old battle between Wal-Mart and the union.
Workers in Saskatchewan, Canada first voted for union representation over four years ago, and Wal-Mart stalled and threw up every road block they could to keep the workers from getting a fair deal. And now, a Canadian judge has essentially ruled that because labor laws have changed since the Weyburn Wal-Mart workers legally won union representation, these workers are no longer represented by a union. According to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, the UFCW applied for union certification in 2004 after a majority of workers in the proposed bargaining unit signed union cards. A vote by secret ballot was not required under labor laws in effect at that time. Changes to provincial labor law implemented in May 2008 now require a vote by secret ballot to certify a union--and Justice Peter Foley ruled this past week that the labor relations board erred in certifying the union at the Wayburn Wal-Mart.
Kevin Groh, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada, said workers now employed at the store "cheered" when they were told of the latest court ruling. This seems like an odd reaction, since Wal-Mart is not exactly known for offering generous salaries. Business Week reported in April, 2008, that Wal-Mart workers earn an average of $22,500 annually. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the threshold of poverty in 2006 for a family of four was $21,200.
In this dismal economy, low-wage workers are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. If they had a union, these Wal-Mart employees would be able to negotiate better health benefits, working conditions, and wages above the poverty line. This issue also speaks to the greater problem of the long and arduous process workers are forced to endure to gain union representation and a first contract. Our current labor system for workers trying to form a union has proven its inability to defend workers' rights in a timely manner time and time again. Sadly enough, the 4+ years these Wal-Mart workers endured in their fight for a union is not uncommon. Two years after first voting to form a union, a whopping 37 percent of workers still have no contract.
What do you think of this ruling? Was the Canadian court's decision to overturn the UFCW certification justified?