PRESS RELEASE: MARCH 23, 2005

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Happy Wal-Mart workers? Hardly

Re: Happy Workers, Desperate Union, Susan Martinuk, March 11

Ms. Martinuk's column about efforts to unionize Wal-Mart employees misrepresented some facts.

Two weeks ago, the Quebec Labour Relations Board found Wal-Mart guilty of intimidating and harassing employees who wished to exercise their basic right to form a union at an outlet in the Ste-Foy area of Quebec City.

Another example of Wal-Mart abusing basic rights occurred when the company recently announced the closure of an outlet ion Jonquiére, Que., rather than deal with a unionized staff.

Ms. Martinuk suggests there's nothing to indicate Wal-Mart employees are dissatisfied and need a union. Why then, is Wal-Mart currently being sued for company-wide practices that allegedly discriminate against 1.6 million female employees, in the largest class action law suit ever in U.S. history?

Wal-Mart was recently fined $500,000 after pleading guilty to 25 charges of failing to notify Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board that employees had been injured on the job over the past four years.

The firm has also run into trouble for its "off-the-clock" labour practices. In 2001, Wal-Mart was forced to pay more than $50-million in unpaid wages to 69,000 workers in Colorado. The company also paid $500,000 to 120 workers in Gallup, N.M., to settle a lawsuit over unpaid work.

Ms. Martinuk tries to prop up her argument by quoting a poll sponsored by the organization Labour Watch, a clearinghouse of anti-union propaganda.

And apparently, not being satisfied with attacking unionization at Wal-Mart, she goes on to say unions are no longer consistent with Canada's national values. Surely, improving standards of living, employment security and protecting people from unfair treatment remain part of the nation's values.

James Clancy, national president, National Union of Public and General Employees

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