LaborTalk for February 2, 2012

Walmart Has Stores in 15 Countries;
It Can Be Unionized by Global Effort

By Harry Kelber

For years, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) tried to organize Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, but despite spending millions and the time of its organizers, it was able to unionize only two of the company's 8,970 stores in the United States and Canada.

Now, the UFCW is starting a new organizing campaign at Walmart to attract its workers (called "associates") from within the company, with almost no chance of success. And here's why:

In addition to operating in all 50 U.S. states, Walmart has stores in 15 countries that include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Morocco, Nicaragua and the United Kingdom.

To unionize Walmart requires a world-wide campaign, with worker organizations in those 15 countries joining in a coalition to demand that the world's largest employer agree to a fair contract covering all of its workers.

Walmart may find it easy to defeat a union campaign in one country, but it would face tremendous difficulty in fighting unions in 15 countries- — simultaneously

A Global Labor Campaign Can Compel Walmart to Negotiate

One of the first things the UFCW should do is to establish a working relationship with the pro-union groups in each of the 15 countries. Information should be gathered about the wages, benefits and working conditions in each country with Walmart stores. (There is an unsubstantiated rumor that Walmart has signed union contracts in all, or some, of the 15 countries.)

The campaign against Walmart, with its immense wealth and resources, will be fought globally. That provides the UFCW with an opportunity to involve the new world labor organizations like the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC), and the many industrial labor federations, like the International Metalworkers' Federation (IMF)

If the international labor movement were to bring Walmart to the bargaining table, it would also demonstrate that the AFL-CIO has become a world power to be reckoned with.

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It is unfortunate that the AFL-CIO pays so little attention to global events, where multinational corporations dominate the world labor market. In the past year, there has been hardly any information about the new world unions, including their victories.

Will the officers of the UFCW agree to become a part of a worldwide coalition to challenge Walmart? Can they induce the AFL-CIO leaders to support their campaign?

Walmart workers should be interested in their response.

LaborTalk will be posted here on February 6, 2012 and on our two web sites www.laboreducator.org and on www.laborsvoiceforchange.org.

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