Byline: Paul French

TORONTO — A Wal-Mart store in Windsor, Ontario, has won the right to unionize, breaking the discounter’s 35-year record of blocking unions from organizing at any of its 2,944 stores.
The victory for the store’s 209 employees, who will be certified by the United Steelworkers Union, comes despite the fact that the majority of them voted against the union drive last May.
The Ontario Labor Relations Board overturned the vote because it agreed with an appeal launched by the union, which contended that employees were intimidated by store management.
The 151 to 43 vote against certification was not a free vote, according to union lawyer Marie Kelly. Kelly said management had threatened to close the store, just across the border from Detroit, if the unionization effort was successful.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said Wednesday the retailer was “surprised and disappointed” by the OLRB’s decision. “We played by the rules,” the spokesman maintained. “This verdict flies in the face of the wishes of the majority of our associates.”
“We’re in the business of opening stores, not closing them,” he added, stating that Wal-Mart did not threaten to close the store if the union won.
Wal-Mart is reviewing the decision and may appeal to the board for reconsideration. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company expects efforts will be made to unionize more of its 136 stores in Canada, in operation since 1994.