Weyburn Walmart certification upheld

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6079_Smith_W
Weyburn Walmart certification upheld

Here we go again...

 

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2010/10/15/sk-wal-mart-weybu...

 

Hopefully it will work this time. No slight to the people who are working hard trying to push this through, but no matter what happens this is a win-win situation in my books. Even if they shut the store down, driving those vipers out of town is hardly a loss.

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

I'd argue with your conclusion, 6079 Smith W.  I made a doc on this issue a few years ago, and the way business shakes out in an isolated rural community is different than it is in the city.

That said, I think best case scenario is that the store is unionized and stays open.  Better for the workers, better for the city of Weyburn.

6079_Smith_W

@ Timebandit

Actually you're right, because I know a lot of people would drive to Regina. "Hardly a loss" is an overstatement, and I do recognize that the workers aren't putting all that effort into it to see it shut down.

Still, I hate that company, and given their track record that may be what it will come to. Given the changes that are happening in that part of the province, one would hope that another large company that is a bit more worker-friendly would step in and see it as an opportunity.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Which retail chain would that be?  They're all pretty bad, and none of them want to be unionized.  Walmart just does it bigger and more effieciently - like with everything.  They had a Zellers, but it closed - that's what prompted the city to actually lobby Walmart to come in.  Very weird, but true.  And yeah, people do drive if they can't get the basics in their home town - they have done before.  And Walmart very cleverly set up a nice, big store in Estevan in 2007, so if Weyburn Walmart closes there are still stores within an hour's drive north and south - although in blizzard season it's a very sucky and sometimes dangerous drive (we commuted back and forth for a few months while making the doc - I hate that highway in February!).

I don't like Walmart, and I don't shop there - but I'm in a city where I've got choices.  It pains me to say it, but the store in Weyburn serves a purpose. 

6079_Smith_W

Timebandit wrote:

I don't like Walmart, and I don't shop there - but I'm in a city where I've got choices.  It pains me to say it, but the store in Weyburn serves a purpose. 

Yes. As I said, I agree with you. Even the closure of a mill or mine run by an abusive company can wreak havok on a single-industry town. On the other hand, there is a limit to how far that useful purpose gets a company. At this point it seems like with this ruling matters are in Wal-Mart's hands, and they may or may not decide to shut it down. If all these big chains are equal, I would at least defer to one which respected the law recognizing a certification vote.

But I do understand the hardship that can be caused when a large company leaves a small community, my anger toward WalMart, and my  embellished statement notwithstanding.

Unionist

One problem is that attacks on workers' rights are not always seen on a plane with attacks on "human" rights.

If Wal-Mart was ordered (to take a hypothetical example) to stop hiring whites only, and it shut down in response, no one would mourn its passing.

Unfortunately, not everyone applies the same standard to some robber barons that pick up and leave when they are told that workers have the inalienable freedom to associate.

The proper reply would be for the state to confiscate all their assets in Canada. And if that scares off other foreign investors, well, that would be a nice spinoff benefit.

Workers' rights are human rights. Seems odd to have to repeat that.

 

KenS

Following up on what Unionist said, a possible application:

Nothing to stop a provincial government if WalMart closes the store from passing a law with punitive steps transperently targeting Walmart.

Probably be thrown out by the courts ultimately... but the damage to WalMart would last.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Oh, I think the backlash from Jonquiere (where they closed a store in direct response to a union certification) caught Walmart by surprise.  I think they learned something from it.  Unfortunately, that something wasn't how to work with a union.

If Walmart decides to close the store (and I think they probably will) it won't be for at least another year so that the two events are not so closely aligned in public perception.

I agree with you, Unionist - the employees have the right to organize and associate as they see fit.  This shouldn't even be in question.  What to do about the employer who shuts down rather than cooperate is another question, though.  A closure has the most direct effect on the workers, but will also affect the citizens of Weyburn.  Nobody wins with a closure.

Unionist

Timebandit wrote:
What to do about the employer who shuts down rather than cooperate is another question, though.  A closure has the most direct effect on the workers, but will also affect the citizens of Weyburn.  Nobody wins with a closure.

You don't agree with the state seizing all its corporate assets - immediately? The closed store then could be run either as a public enterprise or as a cooperative. The bad guys will ultimately get the message that human rights are not up for debate in this country.

Thoughts?

 

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Don't know.  I don't think our legal system supports that at this point.

I suppose the next question is whether there is a will to form a cooperative, or to find a public enterprise to come in.  Zellers and Saan had already pulled out of that local market.  There is a co-op store there, but they carry limited goods - not the same merchandise. 

Bacchus

Aside from the fact that the courts would pull that down, disallow it from happening ever again and give them a profit in compensation?

 

I think they should deal with the union but just like the workers can decide to unionize, strike ask for reasonable or unreasonable things; the owner has the right to say no or close. Just like david chen no? If you cant do business close it and get a job?

Bacchus

I knew you meant legislation, which again the courts can rule to be not allowed which was my point.

 

And yes they have to deal with the union but they can still close, give the proper notice, etc

Unionist

Bacchus wrote:

Aside from the fact that the courts would pull that down, disallow it from happening ever again and give them a profit in compensation?

Bacchus, I'm suggesting legislation, not impulsive state action. What's your opinion now?

 

Quote:
I think they should deal with the union but just like the workers can decide to unionize, strike ask for reasonable or unreasonable things; the owner has the right to say no or close. Just like david chen no? If you cant do business close it and get a job?

No, Bacchus, you're unfamiliar with Canadian labour law. The employer is legally obliged to deal with the union - absolutely no option in the matter once the union is certified - and that's true even if it closes, whereby it will have to negotiate in good faith the consequences of that closure. And if the closure can be shown to be motivated by anti-union animus, that too will be unlawful.

Timebandit wrote:

Don't know.  I don't think our legal system supports that at this point.

As I clarified, I'm suggesting legislation that allows expropriation of businesses that violate the law which requires dealing with workers' associations in good faith, and indeed that violate the Charter (as per the Supreme Court's B.C. hospitals decision). Would you support legislation that gave the provinces or the feds the power to enforce human rights in that way?

Quote:
I suppose the next question is whether there is a will to form a cooperative, or to find a public enterprise to come in.  Zellers and Saan had already pulled out of that local market.  There is a co-op store there, but they carry limited goods - not the same merchandise.

There's obviously a demand, otherwise we wouldn't be hearing about how much Weyburn residents would suffer from a shutdown. I don't know why Zellers and Saan pulled out. Perhaps Wal-Mart can only subsist by providing non-union working conditions? I doubt it. But if the demand is that great, surely someone (government) could at least consider a coop or public business model. As long as Wal-Mart (and Zellers and Saan) are allowed to run the market and/or flout the laws with relative impunity, this question can't even be addressed, let alone answered.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Trying to remember off the top of my head - no time to look it up just now - Didn't Wal-mart have to pay a settlement to the unionized workers in Quebec for the illegal closure of the Jonquiere Wal-Mart?

Bacchus
Bacchus
N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

from that very story ...

CBC wrote:
Louis Bolduc of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union also said the top court's decision opened a door because a labour board will now be able to investigate the reasons for store closures.

"If we can prove the reasons are anti-union then we can sue for damages," he said in a Montreal interview.

 

Unionist

The union lost that case on a peculiar technicality of Québec law - and by virtue of the fact that the union (in my non-expert opinion) argued the case wrongly. That technicality, by the way, would not apply in any other jurisdiction.

The union fought it on the basis that the employees of the closed store were wrongfully dismissed. The majority of the judges followed an old decision, City Buick Pontiac (Montréal) Inc. v. Roy, [1981], which essentially said that "an employee’s dismissal in the case of a genuine closing of a business cannot be remedied, even where the closing was for anti-union motives." The dissenting judges said that:

Quote:
"With great respect, it is my view that the conclusion in City Buick that a dismissal resulting from a genuine closing can never be scrutinized for anti‑union motives, is a rebuke to the prior jurisprudence, to the history of the legislation, and to the purpose of the legislative scheme."

Observers have concluded that a better-argued case could allow the Court to re-examine that jurisprudence in a modern and purposive light.

In any event, even if the Court continues on the same path, the argument in favour of legislative reform on this point is compelling.

[url=http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2009/2009scc54/2009scc54.html]Here's the Supreme Court decision.[/url] Well worth reading.

Unionist

Heh, you beat me to the punch!

I was going to go on to say... that the union found a better way to argue the case. The Supreme Court ruled that you can't get employees reinstated to a closed store. But you can still get declarative relief, and damages, for anti-union unlawful acts, and a store closure can definitely be part of such a pattern.

Venceremos!

Bacchus

Its nice to beat you at least once ;o)

KenS

And going back to Unionist's point about provincial legislation to retaliate on Wal-Mart for a closure... what to do is a question for lawyers. But in general, wholesale seizure of assets is the most vulnerable thing a government could do. Plus the fact that losing the asset of the physical store would not faze Wal-Mart. Not even a flesh wound.

The idea would be to do something to Wal-Mart that costs them the most and gives the government the best position in the following legal fight.

The government would still ultimately lose in court. Thats no reason not to do it. At the very least it would keep Wal-Mart consantly in the PR doghouse.

The point would be to inflict on Wal-Mart whatever costs deterr Wal-Mart the most.... where them winning the case in the end is a pyrrhic victory.

Bacchus

Yes but if the government 'lost in the end' they would only be allowed to do it once, at a huge cost (of lawyers) and then ultimately ruinous compensation to Walmart.

 

And it would look like the government picking on one company because they didnt like it, or it was american, etc (not that Sears, the Bay, Zellers etc are not already american)

They could only do it with a sweeping law for labour rights as a whole (like part timers must get the same benefits as full timers unless only 12 hours a week or some such)

KenS

Give a team of lawyers the mandate, and they can find something that wont lead to ruinous compensation. As far as the costs to Wal-Mart- the monetary costs will never deterr them. But strategically placing Wal-Mart in court proceedings on a regular basis- which everyone knows is a consequence of them closing a unionized store... thats a PR cost they will not brush off.

And it would be a work in progress- a government that trys will find ways, and continuously adapt them, to maximize Wal-Mart's exposure while minimizing its own. 

As to you can only do it once, so what? How often can Wal-Mart close stores... and do it without being tripped up?

Bacchus

The so what is that the govt can try not trys. One shot and one shot only which it would lose if directed at one company only and with compensation, regardless of the number of lawyers. If the number of lawyers really matters, Phillip Morris would owe nobody anything

KenS

Its not overwhelming numbers of lawyers I'm talking about. Just more applied resources than one or two guys talking off the tops of their heads.

Wal-Mart, even Wal-Mart in one province, is a huge target. Wal-Marts "goodwill" alone is a huge target. The real target is in there somewhere. Liberate yourself from limitations that you are trying to seize assets or exact fines, and there is a soft enough target in there.