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8.02.2009

will the circle be unbroken? not if wal-mart can help it

Imagine a world without circles!



Wal-Mart Workers Canada - part of UFCW Canada, a progressive Canadian union representing private-sector workers - is trying to improve the lives of the 80,000 Canadians who work at Wal-Marts.

Needless to say, Wal-Mart is trying to stop them, and has been for a very long time.

You'll remember what happened in Québec, where Wal-Mart closed a store rather than negotiate in good faith with a union.

The former Wal-Mart employees of that Jonquière, Québec, store filed a lawsuit charging Wal-Mart with violating their Charter Rights. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decision is expected soon.

But the battle continues. Workers at a different Québec store became the first group of main store Wal-Mart employees in their province to win a union contract, the result of more than four years of legal challenges, negotiations, and mediation. Workers at two other Wal-Mart locations - a Tire & Lube Express, a division of Wal-Mart, in Hull, Québec, and a main store in Weyburn, Saskatchewan - are also negotiating their first contracts.

Now, threatend with being forced to come to the table with a collective bargaining unit, Wal-Mart is pulling out all the stops. The company has launched a censorship campaign aimed at muzzling Wal-Mart Workers Canada. Tactics include:
  • Wal-Mart filed a court injunction with the Quebec Superior Court against the UFCW Canada-run Wal-Mart Workers Canada website.

  • The injunction uses trademark law to call for significant changes to the website and threatens to undermine UFCW Canada's ability to effectively communicate with Wal-Mart workers.

  • One of their outrageous demands would prevent us from using oval, circular or semi-circular designs. Where will this end? Can you imagine a world without circles?

  • UFCW Canada is confident that Wal-Mart's case is unfounded, so it is maintaining the look, feel and messaging of Wal-Mart Workers Canada.

  • On July 28, 2009, UFCW Canada launched this campaign to call on Canadians to contribute to the defence of their digital rights by challenging Wal-Mart to demonstrate that they respect freedom of expression by immediately dropping the injunction request.

  • Think they're exaggerating? Take a look at the injunction: pdf here.

    How you can help:

  • Watch and share the Wal-Mart Workers Free Speech page, and this video on YouTube.

  • Send a letter to Wal-Mart opposing their tactics and standing up for free speech.

  • There's also a "Save the Circle" Facebook group. (I question the usefulness of these Facebook groups, as I think people join and mistakenly believe the work stops there. But that's a story for another post.)

    * * * *

    Wal-Mart's anti-labour, anti-human policies provide ample material for a dedicated blog and then some. Here's a sample from wmtc:

  • Wal-Mart's internal memo revealing plans to further cut employees' meager health care benefits,

  • the company's influence on US politics,

  • the class-action discrimination suit representing two million female employees, and

  • the story of Debbie Shank.

    Many thanks to activist, wmtc reader and friend David Heap for answering the question Will The Circle Be Unbroken.
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