Wal-Mart Watch: Saskatchewan Wal-Mart workers fight to unionize:
Union officials say Weyburn’s band of rebellious workers are closer than any others to becoming the first successfully unionized Wal-Mart in North America, slightly ahead of parallel efforts elsewhere in Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, British Columbia, and dozens of U.S. states. From a distance, it might look easy to convince workers they need a union in the birthplace of socialism. But this town of 10,000 people, about 120 kilometres southeast of Regina, no longer supports collectivist ideals with the same enthusiasm that revolutionized politics during the Depression. The region elected right-wing candidates in recent provincial and federal elections. Just a five-minute drive away from Mr. Douglas’s old church, a freshly paved strip of fast-food restaurants and retail outlets on the Western edge of town could be mistaken for almost any piece of suburbia on the continent. Wal-Mart has the biggest sign on the block, and the parking lot is full. Inside, the workers are bitterly divided. Some accuse the United Food and Commercial Workers Union of tricking them into signing union cards, by telling them the signatures didn’t mean supporting the unionization drive. Union supporters say those employees are lying because they’re frightened that unionization would shut down the store.
The only point on which the employees agree is that these recent months have been fraught with fear and confusion, as a battle between the world’s largest retailer and North America’s largest union turns their store into a den of whispers, nasty rumours, and personal attacks. The tension is fuelled by high stakes, legally and symbolically: Union organizers hope Saskatchewan’s comparatively pro-union labour laws will finally allow them to show Wal-Mart workers around the world that the company’s anti-union tactics can be defeated. The company wants to set its own precedents, too, by proving that labour laws written decades ago violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by restricting the employer’s right to communicate with workers during union drives.