Panel Rules in Favor of Wal-Mart over Union

May 23, 2001 ( - An unfair labor practice complaint that would have given union organizers access to workers inside Wal-Mart stores was dismissed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) lodged the complaint when the store prevented union organizers from entering its Supercenter stores during an organizing effort in 1999 when union organizers went into about 300 of these stores across the US.

The union accused the retailer of improperly attempting to deny organizers access to workers while Wal-Mart countered that organizers were trespassing, harassing workers and violating meat safety procedures by entering meat departments.

Wal-Mart originally won a temporary restraining order against union organizers, which was lifted last year. When the matter went before the NLRB, the panel ruled in favor of the retailer.

The union had argued that unions should have the same access to the store as charitable groups, who are permitted to solicit inside Wal-Mart and other stores. Wal-Mart countered that the groups in question, such as the Salvation Army and the Girl Scouts, were not allowed inside the stores, although they were allowed on company property.

Further clarification is in the works. Senator Tim Hutchinson (Republican-Arkansas) has introduced a bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act so that it would permit charities inside retail stores while not allowing equal access to non-charitable groups, including union organizers.

– Camilla Klein