The United Food and Commercial Workers union recently launched a nationwide organizing campaign aimed at Wal-Mart, the world's second-largest corporation. The 1.4 million-member union's initial target is Las Vegas, where interest in representation is high among Wal-Mart employees. "The workers in Las Vegas have been especially eager to organize," says Jill Cashen, spokeswoman for the union, whose members are concentrated in supermarkets, meatpacking, poultry and other food processing industries.

Organizing Wal-Mart has been an ominous task because of employees transcience and the discount chain's aggressive anti-union tactics. When seven butchers at a Wal-Mart in Jacksonville, Texas voted last year to form a union, the company promptly announced it was closing meat departments in 180 stores across the nation (see "Wal-Martyrs," May 15, 2000).

However, the organizing effort appears to be moving forward in Las Vegas, where dozens of UFCW members have been meeting with Wal-Mart workers in hopes that they will attain a federally sanctioned union vote. "There's a core group in Las Vegas who are really long-term employees and want to stay put," Cashen says.

The Wal-Mart employees leading the union drive are using the Internet to help get out their message. Their Web site ( features detailed critiques of Wal-Mart's wage scales, medical plan and union-busting tactics. It also keeps local employees informed about organizing efforts at stores in other communities. One recent report on the Web site rebuts an anti-union video that Wal-Mart is showing to employees. Las Vegas is a logical first battleground for the UFCW because of the heavy union presence in the city's resorts and supermarkets. The aggressive Culinary Workers Local 226, for example, has more than 50,000 members working in Las Vegas hotels and casinos.


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