A union has filed charges against a St. Paul Wal-Mart store for alleged intimidation of pro-union workers, as organizing efforts at several Twin Cities locations intensifies.
The charges, filed with the National Labor Relations Board yesterday, claim that supervisors at the University Ave. store required workers to attend anti-union meetings and threatened to fire union supporters.
According to Doug Mork, organizing director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789, the mega-retailer sent a team of corporate representatives to the Twin Cities in June to stifle organizing efforts. The company then allegedly told workers that they could easily obtain a list of workers who signed union cards and "that union supporters would not continue to be employed by Wal-Mart," according to the charges.
The UFCW claims that assistant store managers also asked workers if they had signed union cards and "interrogated" workers regarding their union support.
Daphne Moore, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, said the company is reviewing the charges and does not have an immediate response to the filing. "I can tell you that we make sure that we take steps to educate our managers on labor law and make sure that our associates know their rights as well," Moore said.
The union plans to file a petition with the NLRB for a union election at the University Ave. store, but Mork declined to provide a timetable, citing concerns about worker intimidation. If the union drive is successful, the University Ave. store would be the only unionized Wal-Mart in the country.
The National Labor Relations Board will conduct an investigation to determine whether the employer violated labor laws, said Marlin Osthus, the NLRB's regional director, Osthus expects a ruling on the case by mid-August.
If the investigation concludes that Wal-Mart violated labor laws, the company would be required to post a notice that states that workers have a right to organize and that the company will not interfere in union efforts. The NLRB does not have the authority to impose a fine or other penalties in the case, Osthus said.
Wal-Mart has aggressively fought similar unionization efforts. When Wal-Mart meat packers in Jacksonville, Texas vote to form a union nine years ago, the retailer closed its meat packing departments and switched to selling pre-packaged meats. The company claims the changes had been planned in advance and were unrelated to unionizing efforts.
The retailer also closed a store in Jonquiere, Quebec four years ago, after workers voted to make it the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America.