November 30, 2009 - Special Issue on Wal-Mart

November 30, 2009 - The Wal-Mart Issue

Supreme Court decides Wal-Mart case on narrow grounds, Quebec law different from rest of Canada

The Lancaster House website features an analysis of the Supreme Court of Canada Wal-Mart Decision, November 27, 2009,Plourde v. Wal-Mart Canada Corp.The analysis concludes that:

“Since the majority's ruling is based on specific wording in the Quebec Labour Code, it is likely that unions will press for amendments to the Code to bring that province into line with the rest of Canada, by making it clear that the closing of a business for anti-union reasons is subject to the same procedural provisions and remedies as any other employer unfair labour practice.

In this, unions will almost certainly emphasize that, unlike the rest of the Court, the three dissenting judges all had considerable experience and expertise in labour law prior to their appointment to the bench. Justice LeBel practised labour law for many years and is the author of one of the leading labour law texts in Quebec; Justice Abella was Chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board; and Justice Cromwell was a labour arbitrator and Vice-Chair of the Nova Scotia Labour Relations Board.” [extract from the text]

Lancaster House, December 2, 2009: Supreme Court decides Wal-Mart case on narrow grounds, Quebec law different from rest of Canada

Lancaster House, December 2, 2009: Supreme Court decides Wal-Mart case on narrow grounds, Quebec law different from rest of Canada (second version of the report, with excerpts from the majority and minority judgments)

Plourde v. Wal‑Mart Canada Corp., SCC 54 (November 27, 2009)

 

Upholding Employers’ Right to Close their Business

Ogilvy Renault is a Canadian law firm that represents employers. Their analysis of the Supreme Court of Canada Wal-Mart decision, November 27, 2009 can be linked to below. “Ogilvy Renault represented the Conseil du patronat du Québec (Quebec Business Council) in this matter, which intervened in the case before the Supreme Court in order to protect the interests of its members.”

Ogilvy Renault, November 30, 2009: The Wal-Mart Case: Supreme Court Ruling Upholds Employers' Right to Close Their Businesses by Sébastien Beauregard

 

Canadian News on the Supreme Court of Canada Ruling on Wal-Mart, November 27, 2009

Le Devoir, December 2, 2009: Affaire Wal-Mart - La légitimité vacillante de la Cour suprême

Michel Coutu (Professeur titulaire à l’École de relations industrielles de l’Université de Montréal)

Laurence Léa Fontaine (Professeure au département des sciences juridiques de l’UQAM)

Georges Marceau (Avocat associé chez Melançon, Marceau, Grenier, Scortino Entreprise et établissement)

Canadian Labour Congress, November 27, 2009: Wal-Mart court ruling a narrow technical victory - Georgetti says judgment applies only in Quebec

Globe and Mail, November 28, 2009: Divided Supreme Court clears Wal-Mart in union-busting accusations, by Kirk Makin, Justice Reporter

Globe and Mail, November 27, 2009: Court rules against Wal-Mart workers: Supreme Court decision a blow to union push by employees of a Quebec outlet

Toronto Star, November 27, 2009: Top court backs Wal-Mart over union store closing Under Quebec law, permanent closure of Quebec outlet can't be seen as attempt to crush union

CBC, November 27, 2009: Wal-Mart wins at Supreme Court

 

Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog on the Wal-Mart Decision

“Congratulations to Wal-Mart Canada are in order: its decision to dismiss about 200 employees in Quebec who had the audacity to exercise their Charter-protected right to unionize survived a Supreme Court challenge! Another giant step forward for corporate Canada …” [click below to continue reading Professor David Doorey’s analysis]

Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog, November 26, 2009: SCC Upholds Wal-Mart’s Decision to Close Store to Avoid Union in Quebec

Background for the decision is also available from: Thoughts form a Management Lawyer, August 10, 2008: Wal-Mart Cases Will Be Heard by the SCC

Click here to link to more of Doorey’s blog postings on Wal-Mart

 

The Court

Although The Court, Osgoode Hall Law School’s blog on Supreme Court of Canada decisions, has not yet commented on the November 27th Wal-Mart decision, keep checking back to the website for the posting. For now, here is The Court’s posting on Wal-Mart from 2007 that interprets the Supreme Court of Canada’s four refusals to grant Wal-Mart leave to appeal.

The Court, May 9th, 2007: Wal-Mart: The ringing sound of silence, by Julian Ho

 

The Impacts of Wal-Mart

“Wal-Mart has been both praised and pilloried as a template for twenty-first century capitalism. Therein lies the challenge in analyzing the world's largest retailer. We examine the sociological impact of Wal-Mart in terms of four themes: its business model and organizational structure, the dual impact of Wal-Mart's labor relations in terms of its own stores and working conditions in its global supply chain, the genesis and effectiveness of community mobilizations against Wal-Mart, and how Wal-Mart's growth is linked to the emergence of buyer-driven commodity chains in the global economy. Wal-Mart underscores the value of a public sociology agenda that embraces three research criteria: the incorporation of new media and audiences, the need to go global with our research, and the ability to work for change from within.” [abstract from article]

Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 35: 573-591, August 2009: The Impacts of Wal-Mart: The Rise and Consequences of the World's Dominant Retailer [scroll to bottom of the page – full text available to the University of Toronto Community and other university libraries with a subscription]

 

The Wal-Mart Waltz in Canada

This article reviews efforts to unionize Wal-Mart employees in Canada. The authors describe Wal-Mart’s sustained pattern of anti-union activity and United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) campaign against the world’s largest retailer, which has been an enormous and costly undertaking. Although the Canadian legal system and its political climate are generally viewed as more open to unionization than the United States, the authors argue that efforts to organize Wal-Mart employees in Canada have been marked by a pattern that can best be described as “two steps forward, one step back.” Just when UFCW Canada has appeared to gain ground, it has been forced back a step either by Wal-Mart’s recalcitrance in bargaining or its economic muscle flexing in the form of protracted litigation or threatened store closures. Although it is unclear what the future will hold for efforts to organize Wal-Mart employees in Canada, the authors conclude that the pattern of mixed success and defeat described in the Article is likely to persist for some time to come.

The Wal-Mart Waltz in Canada: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, by John Stout and Jo-anne Pickel in theConnecticut Law Review, volume 39 number 4, May 2007 (19 pages, PDF)

 

Inside the Leviathan

“Unions are needed at Wal-Mart for much the same reasons that they were needed at Ford and GM in the 1930s—to prevent the mistreatment of employees, and to obtain for them fair, living wages. Unions are also needed to curb the unedifying "race to the bottom" among corporations. If Wal-Mart had been a union company and its employees had the same wages and benefits as other California store employees, Safeway and Albertsons could not have used Wal-Mart's planned entry into the California market as an excuse to beat down employee wages and benefits.” [extract from “Inside the Leviathan”]

New York Review of Books, Volume 51, Number 20 · December 16, 2004: “Inside the Leviathan,” by Simon Head

New York Review of Books, Volume 52, Number 7 · April 28, 2005: Working for Wal-Mart: An Exchange By Merick Chaffee, John Day, Gene Epstein, Reply by Simon Head -- In response to “Inside the Leviathan” (December 16, 2004)

Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay For Wal-Mart Wal-Mart's Labor Record, February 2004. (reviewed in NYRB article above)

You can watch the PBS program Is Wal-Mart Good for America online

 

Organizing Wal-Mart

“UFCW-Canada is confident that eventually, most likely through first contract arbitration, it will secure a contract for one of Wal-Mart’s Canadian stores, and once it does, that it will be able to use that contract as a model to organize other stores not only in Canada but the U.S. as well. If a first agreement is imposed on Wal-Mart at St. Hyacinthe, the company will have a much more difficult time justifying a shut-down than it did at Jonquière. If the company was forced to negotiate in Canada, it would not be a first. It already deals with unions overseas in, for example, the United Kingdom and Germany and, most recently, China. However, Canadian negotiations might reverberate throughout North America and begin to move the company away from its business model and, instead, adopt practices that are more of the industry norm. That is precisely the union’s aim but Wal-Mart has proven to be a very robust adversary.” [extract from “Organizing Wal-Mart”]

Just Labour, Volume 6 & 7, 2005: “Organizing Wal-Mart: the Canadian campaign” by Roy J. Adams Professor Emeritus, School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada

 

Canada's Labor Law: An Example for the U.S.?

Extract from article: “… managers are far more limited by what they can say about the impact of unionization than are their American counterparts, a fact that often comes as a surprise to American companies with Canadian subsidiaries. In one notorious case, for example, from 1996, disgruntled employees of a Wal-Mart operation in Windsor, Ontario, approached the United Steelworkers of America seeking representation. Enough cards were signed to force an election. In the election, however, 79 percent of the employees voted against the union. The Employee Labour Relations Board proceeded to uphold union objections to Wal-Mart's American-style interference with the unionization process. Bizarrely, at least from an American perspective, the Board based its finding in part on Wal-Mart's silence when employees asked if the store would be closed if the unionization drive succeeded. The Board found the company's lack of comment to have had a "chilling effect" upon the union campaign. By way of remedy, it did not (as one might have expected) merely throw out the election results that had gone against the union: it ordered the union installed to represent the workers, majority vote or no.” [for complete article click on link below]

PointofLaw.com: information and opinion on the US litigation system, November 8, 2009: Canada's Labor Law: An Example for the U.S.? by John Endean

 

Seminar Announcement: Patterns of Unionization in the U.S.: Who is unionized and when?

Labour Policy Seminar Series Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources University of Toronto

SPEAKER: John Budd, Land Grant Professor, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota 
Monday December 7, 2009 
9:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. 
LOCATION: Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources Room 205 121 ST. George Street

First-Timers And Late-Bloomers: Youth-Adult Unionization Differences in a Cohort of the U.S. Labor Force (39 pages, PDF) by Jonathan E. Booth, John W. Budd and Kristen M. Munday. October 2009.

Never Say Never?: Uncovering the Never-Unionized in the United States (46 pages, PDF), by Jonathan E. Booth, John W. Budd and Kristen M. Munday. October 17, 2007.

 

Books and Videos on Wal-Mart

The Retail Revolution: how Wal-Mart created a brave new world of business / Nelson Lichtenstein. New York : Metropolitan Books, 2009.

In this lively, probing investigation, historian Nelson Lichtenstein deepens and expands our knowledge of the merchandising giant. He shows that Wal-Mart’s rise was closely linked to the cultural and religious values of Bible Belt America as well as to the imperial politics, deregulatory economics, and laissez-faire globalization of Ronald Reagan and his heirs. He explains how the company’s success has transformed American politics, and he anticipates a day of reckoning, when challenges to the Wal-Mart way, at home and abroad, are likely to change the far-flung empire. Insightful, original, and steeped in the culture of retail life, The Retail Revolution draws on first hand reporting from coastal China to rural Arkansas to give a fresh and necessary understanding of the phenomenon that has transformed international commerce.

Wal-mart : the high cost of low price / produced and directed by Robert Greenwald. New York : Disinformation Company, 2005.

This feature length documentary uncovers a retail giant's assault on families and American values. The film dives into the deeply personal stories and everyday lives of families and communities struggling to fight a goliath. A working mother is forced to turn to public assistance to provide healthcare for her two small children. A Missouri family loses its business after Wal-Mart is given over $2 million to open its doors down the road. A mayor struggles to equip his first responders after Wal-Mart pulls out and relocates just outside the city limits. A community in California unites, takes on the giant, and wins

Wal-Mart : the face of twenty-first-century capitalism / edited by Nelson Lichtenstein. New York : New Press, 2006. 349 p.
Edited by one of the nation's preeminent labor historians, this book marks an ambitious effort to dissect the full extent of Wal-Mart's business operations, its social effects, and its role in the U.S. and world economy. Wal-Mart is based on a spring 2004 conference of leading historians, business analysts, sociologists, and labor leaders that immediately attracted the attention of the national media, drawing profiles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the New York Review of Books, Their contributions are adapted here for a general audience.

The Bully of Bentonville : how the high cost of Wal-Mart's everyday low prices is hurting America / Anthony Bianco. New York ; Toronto : Currency/Doubleday, 2006.

The definitive portrait of the juggernaut that is reshaping American, The Bully of Bentonville exposes the zealous, secretive, small-town mentality that rules Wal-Mart and chronicles its far-reaching consequences. In a gripping, richly textured narrative, Anthony Bianco shows how Wal-Mart has driven down retail wages throughout the country, even as their substandard pay and meager health-care policy have led to a double-digit employee turnover; why their aggressive expansion inevitably puts locally owned stores out of business; and how their pricing policies have forced suppliers to outsource work and move thousands of jobs overseas. Their power even influences what Americans can read, watch, and listen to; in the name of protecting its customers, Wal-Mart bans "racy" magazines and insists on sanitized versions of popular DVDs and CDs. Based on countless interviews with Wal-Mart employees, managers, executives, competitors, suppliers, customers, and community leaders, The Bully of Bentonville illuminates the story-behind-the-headlines and brings the truths about Wal-Mart into sharp focus.

The Wal-mart effect: how the world's most powerful company really works - and how it's transforming the American economy / Charles Fishman. New York : Penguin Books, 2007.

Wal-Mart isn't just the world's biggest company, it is probably the world's most written-about. But no book until this one has managed to penetrate its wall of silence or go beyond the usual polemics to analyze its actual effects on its customers, workers, and suppliers. Drawing on unprecedented interviews with former Wal-Mart executives and a wealth of staggering data (e.g., Americans spend $36 million an hour at Wal-Mart stores, and in 2004 its growth alone was bigger than the total revenue of 469 of the Fortune 500), The Wal-Mart Effect is an intimate look at a business that is dramatically reshaping our lives.

 

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Editor: Vicki Skelton
Designer: Nick Strupat

Copyright © 2008 Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto. All rights reserved.

Date posted: 
Monday, November 30, 2009