Saturday :: Feb 12, 2005

Canada To Wal-Mart - Take Off, Eh?

by pessimist

There is no doubt in my mind that Canadians know how to be tough when the situation calls for it. Take their staunch defense during our attempts to take them over during the War of 1812, or their costly victory at Vimy Ridge in WWI, their valiant participation in convoy defense during the Battle of the Atlantic in glorified fishing boats, or their role in the Normandy Invasion. It was Canadians who conducted the disastrous Dieppe Raid. Look at these examples alone and no one could rightfully call Canadians chicken.

In addition, while the Canadians had their native troubles, they had far fewer of them than we did in America. They could have taught us something about being able to conduct peace talks with natives - and they were smart enough not to be a part of Vietnam.

So why am I mentioning all of this Canadian military history when the title cites Wal-Mart?

Because Canadians are fighting back against the outrageous behaviors of that predatory corporation!

The point I was making on the front side was to demonstrate that Canadians aren't afraid of a fight, and that they will fight when the cause is just. The Vietnam reference was an example that Candians know the difference between a just cause and participating in a lie. There are no Canadian military personnel in Iraq, for example - and there aren't going to be any Canadians sent to Iraq.

So here they stand: the Canadian Worker-version of the American Minuteman facing down the multinational corporatist Royal Army - outgunned but not out-gutted, knowing that they have right on their side:

The latest fashion in retail workers: Part-time

The retail sector faces a sea change in how the businesses are run as part-time workers become a growing part of the work force, yet are often unprotected by union contracts or even government regulations, industry observers say.

The challenge of organizing in the retail world was underlined this week when Wal-Mart Canada Corp. announced it will close its store in Jonquière, Que., this spring, saying it was unable to negotiate a first contract for its 190 staff that would ensure the outlet's profitability.

Among the contentious issues between Wal-Mart and its union -- the first among the chain's 256 stores -- were union demands tied to full- and part-time workers that would mean "a fundamental change to the business model," Wal-Mart spokesman Andrew Pelletier says.

I don't often cuss in the writing of these posts, but I can't resist this one.

Fuck your business model, Pelletier.

You work for the largest retail company in America with billions in profits every year. The Waltons are among the world's richest people, with a combined net worth greater than any two of the others on the list, and almost as much - if not already more - than any three of the top five combined.

Just how much money is enough?

Even conservative blogger Matt Drudge takes Wal-Mart to task:

Wal-Mart is to the retail industry what Standard Oil was to the energy industry back in the day. The government had the wisdom to break up Standard Oil in 1911, now they need to do it to Wal-Mart. The are an evil group of opportunist asses. Our government has created an environment that will remove our middle class society in a few years. All those support jobs and computer jobs being sent overseas, that's our middle class saying goodbye.

Just think, 15 years from now, you will either be really poor or really rich. Remember what happened in the The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917? The little guys rose up and took power from the elite. Is it possible for revolution to happen again in the USA ? If the conditions are right, it certianly is not beyond the realm of possibility.

In an article datelined as of this post date, The Cornell Daily Sun has this to say:

Tear Down Wal-Mart

Working against Wal-Mart means nothing less than working for the renewal of our democracy.

The costs of "Always Low Prices" are innumerable. Nationwide, state governments pay tens of millions of dollars in health care costs for Wal-Mart employees and their families. In New York, which charges counties 25 percent of Medicaid costs, cities and towns with Wal-Mart stores pay the most.

In California, State Assembly member Sally Lieber discovered company documents urging Wal-Mart's notoriously underpaid workers to apply for welfare.

Wal-Mart simultaneously burdens local and state treasuries and brings down area wages by charging less than competing stores, driving them out of business, and putting their former employees on payroll at lower hourly rates. Taxpayers are inevitably left to pick up Wal-Mart's tab and support workers who aren't paid enough to support themselves and their families.

Yet the Waltons donate to conservative candidates who promise to cut social services. Last November, Californians nearly approved a referendum requiring firms not providing health insurance to pay into a state fund for the uninsured. Wal-Mart poured cash into defeating the measure. New York should follow through where the Golden State failed.

Miserly domestic policies matter little compared to imperial wars that open new markets to the world's largest retailer, which still operates three times more stores within the United States than in all other nations combined.

In state politics, the Waltons' prop up Republicans because they hate labor unions and fear collective action by their "associates".

If impoverished Wal-Mart workers struck for higher wages, the family fortune might suffer.

The opposition to Wal-Mart is multifaceted in Ithaca and elsewhere. Humane folk fault the company for its cruel employment practices. Taxpayers recognize the costs that Wal-Mart imposes on community infrastructure. Citizens to the left of the Republican Party object to where firm managers and owners fall on the political spectrum. But consumers -- blind to all else but "Always Low Prices" -- maintain Wal-Mart's dominance. Wal-Mart is less a cause of all the crises we associate with it than an effect of political and economic structures hostile to organized labor and committed to turning people into consumers first and foremost.

Ultimately, good legislation will require reducing the influence that Wal-Mart and the Waltons exert over the electoral process. We need to assert ourselves as citizens with rights rather than mere consumers with desires. We have a right to a political process where money is not convertible into speech, enabling the rich to speak so much louder than the rest of us. We have a right to vote for candidates who appeal to us on issues that. Each of us should be able to run competitive campaigns for public office without being rich or selling our platforms to wealthy donors.

The AFL-CIO states that Wal-Mart's business model is poverty - financed by the taxpayers. Wal-Mart's 2003 profit of $9.1 billion was assisted by passing costs approximating $20,000 per employee to state and federal budgets.

Meanwhile, through the use of 'dead peasant' insurance policies, Wal-Mart can - and has - benefit handsomely:

Mike Rice was a 48-year-old assistant manager when he died of a massive heart attack at the Wal-Mart store in Tilton, N.H. His widow, Vicki, became the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the company after she discovered Wal-Mart collected $300,000 from a life insurance policy it owned on him. Vicki Rice believes job-related stress contributed to the heart attack and says it is “totally immoral” for Wal-Mart to profit from his death.

The Beneficial Uses Of Class Warfare - For The Wealthy

At least Canadian governmental officials - unlike their American counterparts - haven't forgotten who they are supposed to be working for:

NDP accuses Wal-Mart of "economic terrorism"

The federal NDP is calling it 'economic terrorism'.

Wal-Mart Canada is closing a unionized store in Quebec and New Democrat MP David Christopherson says the federal government should do something to protect workers from 'corporate bullies'. Federal Labour Minister Joe Fontana says ... he will lobby Quebec's labour minister to ensure employee rights are being protected.

This is more than we Americans can expect from our own Democratic Party - much less from our Republican-dominated government!!

Union vows to pursue contract at Wal-Mart

New Democrat MP David Christopherson demanded to know what the government would do to help the Wal-Mart workers. Christopherson had fiery words about the retail giant.

"They've sent a message to their 70,000 Canadian workers: You don't have the right to organize, you don't have the right to collective bargaining, and you don't have the right to decent wages or hours of work," Christopherson said. "What is the government going to do protect Canadian workers from corporate bullies?"

But politicians declaring platitudinal postures isn't the only assault upon the predations against Canadian workers:

Bob Linton, the National Communications Coordinator for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, told on Friday: "Let Wal-Mart prove to the Quebec Labour Commission that this store is not profitable. It seems kind of funny that the one store that is organized in their empire is the only one not making money and they're prepared to shut it."

Careful - somebody's thinking!

In order to cover all the bases in the event of a successful campaign, the contract effort continues:

Union rips Canada Wal-Mart

The United Food and Commercial Workers' Canadian arm said it plans to file a complaint against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for bargaining in bad faith after the retailer said it would close its first unionized outlet in North America. "Wal-Mart never had any intention of reaching a collective agreement" in Jonquiere, Michael Fraser, national director of UFCW Canada, said Friday at a news briefing in Toronto. "Wal-Mart made its decision to close the store months before we sat down at the table with them."

Wal-Mart will pay for closing

Quebec Labour Minister Michele Despres had just informed Wal-Mart and the United Food and Commercial Workers' union he had agreed to a union demand for binding arbitration.

Municipal officials in Jonquiere said they are primarily concerned for the 190 workers who will lose jobs. But at the same time, they predict local businesses will happily fill the gap left by Wal-Mart.

Georges Bouchard, chairperson of the Jonquiere borough in the municipality of Saguenay, said local businesses may be able to create more jobs than Wal-Mart is taking away. "In fact, some people do tell us that when a Wal-Mart comes in, the net effect in terms of jobs is not positive, but negative," Bouchard said.

The head of the local chamber of commerce said it is tough to buy Wal-Mart's argument that the store was not profitable, since two other Wal-Marts are operating in smaller communities nearby - Alma and Chicoutimi. "Many of our merchants found that when Wal-Mart opened, it drained their business away."

"Anti-union attitudes don't fly in Quebec," Provincial opposition leader Bernard Landry told journalists in Quebec City yesterday. "We believe here in Quebec - and we are the most unionized jurisdiction on the continent - in a good balance between workers and bosses."

Landry stopped short of calling for a province-wide boycott, but he did predict Wal-Mart's fortunes will decline in the province unless it starts to respect what he described as the pro-union attitudes of most Quebecers. "Everybody has to act according to their own conscience. Mine is an advanced social conscience that I share with millions of Quebecers and I have a feeling this brand will not be be very attractive here in the future," Landry added.

Speaking The Truth Shall Set Your Job Free

Wal-Mart denies charge of union-busting in announcing closure of Quebec store

Union leaders rejected Wal-Mart's stated reasons for closing the store. "Wal-Mart has fired these workers not because the store was losing money but because the workers exercised their right to join a union," Michael J. Fraser, national director of United Food & Commercial Workers Canada, said in a written statement. "Once again, Wal-Mart has decided it is above the law and that the only rules that count are their rules."

Union says Wal-Mart bargained in bad faith

"How do I know they are profitable? Because the parking lot is full," said Michael Fraser, national director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Canada.

Union Sets Up Web Petition
Document Protests Closing Of Canada Store

The United Food and Commercial Workers union in Washington has started a petition drive at its Web site protesting the closing of a Wal-Mart store in Canada that was trying to unionize.

The petition is directed to Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee Scott. UFCW spokesman Greg Denier said thousands of complaints have already been sent to Scott since the petition was set up Thursday. "We had thousands of responses within the first few hours," Denier said. "People are sending them directly to Wal-Mart (in Bentonville). You can expect hundreds of thousands of comments going through to Wal-Mart."

Denier called closing the Canada store a "reprehensible act" and said Wal-Mart was being deceptive.

"No one was forcing them to hire 30 people. If during the course of negotiations, they can't reach an agreement, there is an impartial process to help them do that," Denier said. "What Wal-Mart fears is an impartial process. Those workers in Quebec have an absolute right to have a union; that's the law. Instead of obeying the law, (Wal-Mart) decided to close the store and take away the livelihood from those 200 families -- and that's the (petition) message being sent to Wal-Mart."

The petition, addressed to "Mr. Scott," calls upon Wal-Mart to "live up to the responsibilities that come with being the world's largest corporation. Those responsibilities begin with respecting workers, consumers and communities.

"Wal-Mart spent hundreds of millions last month in an advertising campaign that asked people to find out the facts about your company. The fact that you would eliminate jobs and displace an entire community because you want to deny workers their right to negotiate for a fair wage is the only fact I need to know.

"Do the right thing. Reverse plans to close your store. Negotiate in good faith with Wal-Mart workers," the petition says.

"Wal-Mart is trying to send a message to the rest of their employees that if they join a union the same thing could happen to them," said Michael J. Fraser, the UFCW's national director in Canada.

Denier said the UFCW in Canada plans to file charges against Wal-Mart with the Quebec Labor Relations Commission.

"They will continue the organizing effort in Canada, and we will continue in the United States to warn the public about Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is running scared. They're willing to cut off their own profits in order (to stop unionization)," Denier said.

This is demonstrably true, as Wal-Mart is planning to close mere stores here because the workers are organizing.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said in a news release Friday Wal-Mart closing the Canada store was "another chilling example of why New Yorkers should want to keep this low-road retailer out of the city."

Wal-Mart said earlier this year that it plans to open a store in Queens, N.Y. So far, the company has not revealed any plans to open a store in New York City.

As United Food and Commercial Workers International President Joe Hansen puts it:

"Wal-Mart [is showing] the whole world to what lengths it will go to deny their employees a voice on the job. Wal-Mart is the richest corporation in the world, yet cowers in fear of a unified workforce. It is reprehensible that this giant corporation would drag out a union election process for nearly five years, drive union supporters out and strike fear into the hearts of workers who simply asked for the opportunity to participate in a democratic process at work."

The fight is on, and in record time.

The contrast between the Canadian situation and the many similar ones all over the US is striking in the extreme. It's almost as if Canadians still remember how to fight for their rights while Americans think they know how to fight, but don't know what to fight for. If this Wal-Mart travesty was going on in the US (and believe me, it is!), if it ever got any public notice, it might take months if not years. In Canada - where they still apparently care about keeping their rights - it only took days.

To take it to an international level for a moment, I sincerely doubt that Iraq would be such a mess if Canadians were running the reconstruction (what the Occupation should have been instead of what it is). Iraq would long ago have been put back on its feet, and the rebellion would have starved as everyday Iraqis resumed what had been - before it was destroyed by the BFEE/PNAC Petroelum Pirate Posse - a pretty good lifestyle as measured by the world's highest standards. We know how it is today.

So take a cool tip from the Great White North, America. Get up! Stand Up! Stand Up For Your Rights!

While you still have any.

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Wal-Mart settles with government in child labor cases

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, will pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it broke child labor laws, the Labor Department said Saturday.

The 24 violations, which occurred at stores in Arkansas, Connecticut and New Hampshire, had to do with teenage workers who used hazardous equipment such as a chain saw, paper bailers and fork lifts.

The company also agreed to comply with any provisions they violated — in this case, child labor laws — in the future, said Victoria Lipnic, assistant secretary for the department's Employment Standard Administration.

In the settlement, Wal-Mart also agreed to train managers to make sure they understood the child labor laws.

There is no depth to which Wal-Mart won't stoop.

pessimist :: 11:25 AM :: Comments (20) :: Digg It!