In February of 2000, we told you about the success of a group of meatcutters in Jacksonville, Texas who voted to unionize their Wal-Mart. In March of 2000 we followed that with a story of how Wal-Mart proceeded to close down 180 meat cutting departments in their stores in six states. Later that same month, we reported that the United Food and Commercial Workers had asked the National Labor Relations board for an injunction to prevent Wal-Mart from butchering its meat cutting department. This week, the Associated Press updates the story. Judge Keltner Locke, an administrative law judge for the NLRB, ordered Wal-Mart to reopen its meat cutting department, and meet with the butchers to negotiate terms of employment. “This is a historic decision — the first bargaining order issued against Wal-Mart in the United States,” the UFCW said. Wal-Mart issued a press release that said it “has consistently contended that the union should never have been certified in Jacksonville because the election result was improperly influenced by union misconduct and because the bargaining unit requested was improperly narrow. ” The company promised to appeal the latest NLRB ruling. The UFCW is trying to get Wal-Mart to sign an agreement in Joliet, Illinois that requires the company to sign a neutrality agreement, barring Wal-Mart from interfering in attempts to organize workers at the new store. A Wal-Mart spokesman told the AP the company would not agree to such an arrangement.
When Wal-Mart announced weeks after the Jacksonville vote by meat cutters that it was moving to prepackaged meat, it said the change had “absolutely nothing to do” with the union vote. “I have always believed,” wrote Sam Walton, “that we don’t need unions at Wal-Mart.” The company’s promise to appeal the NLRB decision means there will be no movement in this case for quite awhile. Already the meat cutters vote is three and a half years old.