Wal-Mart and the UFCW case study

Wal-Mart and the UFCW case study only 4% final grade

in November 2003 Wal-Mart opened a new store in Weyburn,

Saskatchewan. Soon after the store opened employees contacted

the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) seeking

union representation. In April of 2004 the union filed an application

with the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board to represent the

store’s employees. The union application to represent employees

is an application for certification and the details of this process are

referred to in Chapter 6. The application for certification was the

start of a legal battle that was ongoing in 2010.

The union sought an order from the Board to require Wal-Mart to

produce documents. It was alleged that Wal-Mart had provided

managers with materialsthat showed Wai-Mart was guilty of illegal

practices including “A Manager’s Toolbox to Remain Union Free”.

The Board ordered Wal- Mart to produce documentation and WalMart

appealed this decision. On the appeal a lower court judge

quashed the subpoena and in his decision appeared to suggest

that the Board was biased in favour of unions. Subsequently there

were numerous comments on the situation in the media some of

which were critical of the Labour Relations Board and the

provisions of the Trade Union Act that allowed a union to be

certified without an employee vote. There were calls for

amendments to the legislation and changes at the Board. Some

critics alleged that union contributions to the NDP party which was

in power at the time made change unlikely. The Court of Appeal

overturned the lower court decision and ordered Wai-Mart to

produce the documentation. The Court of Appeal also indicated

that the lower court’s concerns regarding a possible bias in favour of unions by tl1e Labour Relations Board were unfounded. Wal

Mart attempted to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of

Canada, and this further delayed the certification application. While

the Weyburn battle waged on, there w as a related development in

Quebec. In February 2005, Wal-Mart announced that it would

close a store in Jonquiere Quebec, which had been unionized for

four months. Labour activists claimed mat this closing was

intended to send a message to employees in Weyburn and

elsewhere in North America about the negative consequences of

seeking unionization. The president of the Saskatchewan

Federation of Labour referred to “economic terrorism” against

Canadian workers. In April 2005, one full year after the original

application for certification, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to grant Wal-Mart leave to appeal and tl1e certification process

continued. Wal-Mart filed an application to block the Labour

Relations Board from hearing the application alleging the Board

was biased; however, a court decision rejected that application.

Through tilis process, a Wal-Mart website stated that the company

respects “the individual rights of our associates and encourage

them to express their ideas, comments and concerns. Because we

believe in maintaining an open environment of open

communications, we do not believe

mere is a need for third-party representation”. Wal-Mart had some

supporters in the ongoing battle with the union. O ne newspaper

commentary provided as follows: “This province’s unions are

aggressive by nature, helped along by labour laws that favour

unions far more than business, some- thing that has been used by

businesses as a clear illustration as to why companies avoid

coming to Saskatchewan … Presumabl)’ the union has jobs for the

approximately 3500 to 4000 employees who would be put out of

work if Wal-Mart … walked. Wal-Mart is a huge player in

Saskatchewan. It provides hundreds of employees with jobs. It

pays taxes. It is possibly the most popular retail outfit in the

province. To lose something like that would be a major blow to the

province’s economy and employment levels not to mention the

government’s open for business slogan it shops around the


In a 2007 provincial election, the NDP government was defeated

by the Saskatchewan Party. In March of 2008 the new government ended the term of the chair of the Saskatchewan Labour Relations

Board who had been dealing with the UFCW certification

application. In May of 2008 amendments to the Trade Union A ct

that required a vote on certification applications came into effect.

The chair of the Board continued to deal with the Weyburn

application asserting that he had the authority to finish applications

started before his term was ended on tile basis of the law as it was

at the time of the application. In December of 2008 a certification

order was granted. In 2009 Wal-Mart challenged the certification in

court on the basis that the chair did not have jurisdiction and that

the amendments to the Trade Union Act required a vote. In June of

2009 a lower court overturned the certification. Subsequently the

union indicated that it would be appealing the decision. In July of

2009 Wai-Mart filed an application for a court injunction to restrict

the activity of a union website critical of the company. UFCW

Canada National President Wayne Hanley responded saying “

This injunction rec1uest is an over the top assault on effective freedom of speech . . . It’s a kneejerk response by Walmart to the

idea of its employees trying to understand their options as workers,

and trying to share experiences with other ‘associates’. Walmart’s

response to the success of www.walmartworkerscanada.ca is

just another outrageous example of how tile largest retailer in the

history of the world will use its bottom less legal budget to

manipulate tile collective bargaining process and do just about

anything to discourage its ‘associates’ from joining the union.”


  1. Identify the employer’s labour relations strategy, and explain

possible reasons for this strategy.

  1. Outline the environmental factors referred to in Chapter 2

affecting this situation

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