Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — The movement to unionize Wal-Mart Stores seems to be picking up steam, however slowly.
The National Labor Relations Board said Thursday it will require Wal-Mart to allow workers in the meat and seafood department at a Wal-Mart supercenter in Texas to hold a union vote. Meanwhile, meat and seafood workers in two other Wal-Mart locations, in Ocala, Fla., and Normal, Ill., this week also petitioned the NLRB to organize.
The NLRB’s decision in favor of an election among the 15 meat and seafood department workers in Palestine, Tex., follows the first successful union vote at a Wal-Mart supercenter in Jacksonville, Tex., where meat and seafood workers voted 7 to 3 to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Wal-Mart is challenging the Jacksonville election, maintaining the union acted inappropriately in courting meat workers to join the UFCW.
The chain, which had long been successful in beating back organizing attempts at its empire of 2,485 U.S. stores, also plans to appeal the NLRB’s decision requiring a vote at the Palestine store.
Like in Jacksonville, Wal-Mart officials argue the small meat and seafood department in Palestine shouldn’t be treated apart from other workers at the supercenter, which employs a total of 365 workers. Wal-Mart also sees the union bid as unnecessary since the chain is moving toward a pre-packaged, self-serve meat department, part of an industry trend eliminating butchers and seafood workers at supercenters.
“We continue to fail to understand why the board can continue to isolate such a small group of associates to participate in an election,” a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said. “It takes all our associates working together to make our stores a success. The unions know they don’t have support in these stores and that’s why they try and limit these elections.”
A UFCW spokeswoman said there will be “many more votes” to organize Wal-Mart workers. The union is currently focusing on the meat departments since workers in those areas have made many inquiries about organizing. Workers are seeking union representation because their salaries are lower compared to unionized competitors, and they lack a say in determining workplace conditions and benefits, the spokeswoman said.

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