This is what justice looks like:
Nine years after a handful of meat cutters at a Texas Wal-Mart store voted for union representation, the company and the union are at the bargaining table.
But it’s not quite a conventional collective bargaining relationship:
Rather than negotiating over pay and benefit issues, though, the two sides are discussing the effects on workers of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s subsequent decision to eliminate in-store meat cutters and move to prepackaged meats….
The two sides finally met on that issue for the first time March 12, according to the union.
Asked for comment on the meeting, Wal-Mart’s [spokesperson Daphne] Moore said Friday: “We are complying with the order to meet with this union and listen to what they have to say.”
It’s at this juncture that a little review is in order. I actually had to go back to my Monsterfodder days, to get my original post on this story:
On February 17, 2000, meatcutters at Wal-Mart’s Jacksonville, Texas store voted to join an indepedent trade union. This was the culmination of the only successful organizing campaign at any Wal-Mart in the United States. A few days after the vote, Wal-Mart announced that it would be switching to pre-packaged, case-ready meat at all its stores nationwide…Because Wal-Mart didn’t want its meatcutters to unionize, it has farmed its meatcutting out to its suppliers. This not only means the meat is less fresh and that they can’t fill special orders, it means Wal-Mart wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what’s under the cellophane wrap they cover their meat with unless they opened it up and re-wrapped it (and they won’t do that because that would cost money).
Since I wrote that in 2005, the vast majority of supermarkets have gone over to all or mostly case-ready meat in order to be able to match Walmart’s prices, all because one company didn’t want a few meatcutters to organize. [And you thought Walmart's anti-labor policies didn't affect you.] Is making meatcutters obsolete in order to prevent them from organizing morally right? Well, if you’re a Walmart apologist, anything the company does to block unions is right, even if the meat that results from this decision sucks to high heaven. Perhaps the better question then is whether this is legal.
The answer to that question depends upon exactly why the company got rid of their meat cutters. If they did so solely to break the union it’s not, and Walmart will probably be liable to huge fines, including back pay, as this case plays out. But even if the firings were legal, Walmart still has to negotiate a settlement with the people they displaced because those people belonged to a union. That’s the lesson here: union members are protected either way, at least the ones who lived to see this day:
Only one member of the original 12 remains at the store, [UFCW vice-president Johnny] Rodriguez said. One has since died and the others have moved on to different jobs, he said.
“Wal-Mart fought us very hard to keep us from going through this process,” he said. “Nine years is a long time.”
George Wiszynski, assistant general counsel for the union, said the Jacksonville case illustrates the need for passing the Employee Free Choice Act. “It shows how the process at the NLRB is inadequate to protect workers’ rights to form a union,” he said.
Justice delayed is justice denied. That’s why Walmart is fighting the EFCA. They like the fact that it takes the NLRB nine years to enforce its decisions, but the company doesn’t have the guts to admit it. All this talk about the secret ballot and coercion is nothing but a smoke screen to keep a broken system broken.