U.S. high court deals blow to tribe's Amador casino plans...Diana Lambert
The U.S. Supreme Court may have done something that Amador County couldn't manage in two years of legal battles. It may have indirectly stopped another Indian casino from locating in the rural county.
The high court ruled last month that land could not be taken into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, because the tribe was not federally recognized then.
The decision has reverberated across the country, cheering opponents of Indian gambling and disheartening tribes trying to establish rancherias, casinos or other businesses.
"This is a blow for gaming and non-gaming tribes," Matt Franklin, tribal chairman of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians, said Friday. "This is bad for Indian Country. Everyone is scrambling to see how this affects us."
It could end his tribe's plans to open a $250 million casino on 220 acres in Plymouth. The tribe also plans to build houses and businesses on an adjacent 47-acre tract.
Although the Ione Band of Miwok Indians had its federal recognition restored in 1994, its status in 1934 is unclear. Its date of federal recognition has been the subject of a court case and a number of Department of the Interior memorandums.
Franklin cites a treaty signed in the late 1800s and "continued contact with the federal government" as evidence of its early recognition.
"We have our attorneys looking at the language and looking at different alternatives," he said of the court decision's impact on his tribe.
Franklin said tribes convening under the National Gaming Association plan to ask Congress for a legislative remedy. The National Indian Gaming Commission, a regulatory agency, will hear testimony within the next two weeks, he said.
The court ruling isn't likely to stop another casino project proposed for Amador County, however.
The Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians was established in 1926, according to federal records.
The Buena Vista casino is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010 with 24,000 square feet of gambling, 950 slot machines and 20 game tables.
The tribe is led by Rhonda Morningstar Pope. It has six voting members – all members of the Pope family, John Tang, chief executive officer for the rancheria, told The Bee in January.
The county of 38,000 already is home to the 130,000-square-foot Jackson Rancheria casino with its 1,500 slot machines. The Jackson casino is owned by the Jackson Rancheria Band of Miwok Indians.
The date of the tribe's federal recognition was not readily available from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Calls to casino management were not returned.
But challenging a completed land acquisition is difficult, said Howard Dickstein, a Sacramento attorney who has represented the United Auburn Indian Community and other tribes.
However, he expects that tribes will be challenged in court because of the recent ruling.
Amador County officials will be watching any such cases carefully. The county has unsuccessfully battled both the Ione and Buena Vista tribes in court over casino plans.
"Our county doesn't want any more casinos," County Administrator Terri Daly said.
She said an advisory vote showed most residents were against having more Indian casinos in the county.
The Supreme Court ruling doesn't appear to complicate matters for existing casinos in El Dorado and Placer counties.
The Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians owns the Red Hawk Casino in El Dorado County, a 278,00-square-foot facility with 2,000 slot machines and 75 gaming tables.
Records show the tribe was recognized in 1914.
The United Auburn Indian Community owns Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, which has 85,000 square feet of gambling with 2,600 slot machines and more than 98 gambling tables.
The tribe was recognized by the federal government in 1910.
Dickstein said the Auburn tribe's federal recognition was terminated in 1960. They were among a number of California tribes that were dissolved under the California Rancheria Act of 1958.
The Auburn tribe was restored in 1994 by an act of Congress, which gave it "independent congressional authorization."
Dickstein said the designation can shield a tribe from such rulings as the recent Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island case, also known as Carcieri vs. Salazar.
He said a handful of tribes were given the designation when they lost lawsuits seeking restoration of their federal identity in the 1970s.
"The only avenue open to them was an act of Congress," Dickstein said. "Ironically, those tribes are now in the most secure of positions."
It may take time for Bureau of Indian Affairs officials to determine which tribes are at risk because of the Supreme Court decision. The BIA says it doesn't have a complete listing of the dates tribes were federally recognized.
"We are doing a kind of gathering of data of all tribes, and BIA is researching this information at this point," said Bureau of Indian Affairs spokeswoman Nedra Darling from Washington, D.C., on Friday. "And at this point we won't be making any comment until we do our research."
The U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, recently issued a statement saying it was disappointed with the Supreme Court's ruling.
"Our attorneys are in the process of evaluating the decision," said spokesman Matt Lee-Ashley in the statement. "The department is committed to supporting the ability of all federally recognized tribes to have land acquired in trust."
Dickstein believes the Supreme Court's ruling is a message to Indian tribes.
"This is probably a court Indian tribes want to stay away from," he said.
Positive trend continues in EPA report on toxic polluters...Alex Breitler
STOCKTON - Toxic pollution from some of San Joaquin County's larger industrial facilities has decreased again, continuing a trend that dates back at least several years, according to federal data released last week.
Emissions to air and water dipped 3 percent in 2007, adding to an overall 44 percent decline since 2002, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Air and water pollution emissions declined across California, which EPA officials said could be the result of many factors, including businesses closing down or installing new technology to comply with tougher environmental regulations.
The EPA's Toxics Release Inventory is not a complete record of any region's pollution problems; not every industry is required to report.
And in the San Joaquin Valley, the biggest polluters aren't factories or power plants, but cars and trucks, which account for about 70 percent to 80 percent of the Valley's air woes.
Still, it's "absolutely true" that industrial emissions have dropped perhaps tenfold in the past couple of decades because of numerous rules and regulations, said Dave Warner of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
The EPA's emission inventory does not gauge whether the public is at risk from any of the 41 facilities in San Joaquin County that were required to report in 2007. It merely counts how much of each chemical or heavy metal was released.
An EPA spokeswoman said the inventory, available online, "arms communities with powerful information" about sources of pollution.
Easily the biggest county polluter reporting to EPA is the POSDEF Power Co. coal-fired plant at the Port of Stockton; it ranked as the sixth-greatest polluter across the Valley, the EPA said.
However, POSDEF has seen its pollution drop from about 349,000 pounds in 2002 to 208,000 pounds in 2007, a 40 percent decline. Spokespersons for Florida Power & Light Energy, which owns the power plant, did not provide an explanation for the drop-off.
The county's overall decline also might be a result of factory closures in recent years, including Silgan Container plants in Stockton and Lodi, and a Dow Chemical foam insulation plant in Tracy.
Valley's top ten
Here are the Top 10 industrial polluters in the San Joaquin Valley, according to the EPA:
1. Chemical Waste
Management Inc.: Kettleman Hills (18.5 million pounds)
2. Clean Harbors Buttonwillow LLC: Buttonwillow (2.1 million pounds)
3. U.S. Navy Air Weapons Station: China Lake (547,660 pounds)
4. Certainteed Corp.: Chowchilla (493,109 pounds)
5. F&A Dairy of California Inc.: Newman (435,595 pounds)
6. POSDEF Power Co.: Stockton (208,311 pounds)
7. J.G. Boswell Co. Oil Mill: Corcoran (142,544 pounds)
8. Big West of California Refinery: Bakersfield, (95,240 pounds)
9. Spreckels Sugar Co. Inc.: Mendota (63,320 pounds)
10. Frito-Lay North America Inc.: Bakersfield (54,000 pounds)
to learn more
To search by city for San Joaquin County's 41 facilities listed in the Toxics Release Inventory, visit www.recordnet.com.
To search for facilities in other cities or counties, or to learn more about the inventory, visit www.epa.gov/triexplorer/statefactsheet.htm.
Trout restoration plan controversial...Dana M. Nichols
MARKLEEVILLE - State and federal efforts to restore America's rarest trout species to 11 miles of Silver King Creek in far eastern Alpine County moved forward Friday with release of an environmental report on the likely consequences of the plan.
The project is beloved by trout fishermen but distrusted by environmental groups. That's because in order to restore the Paiute cutthroat trout to the creek, game officials will first use rotenone to poison the non-native rainbows, Lahontan cutthroats and others living there now.
Rotenone is an odorless, broad-spectrum chemical used as an insecticide and pesticide.
Controversy over rotenone five years ago prompted a federal lawsuit that blocked an earlier restoration effort. This time, state and federal authorities have done a full report on the likely environmental impacts and are now seeking comments on that report.
Among those who will scrutinize the report will be a group known as Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, which was lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that prompted U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell in 2005 to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the use of rotenone until either a full trial on the matter or a full environmental study by the U.S. Forest Service.
Patty Clary, executive director for Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, said she hasn't changed her opinion of the fish restoration proposal in the past four years.
"I don't think dumping toxic chemicals into a stream in a wilderness area or anywhere in California is a reasonable thing, ever," Clary said.
"However, we will be looking at it to see if they have done what is allowed under the law. That does not mean the law is right."
A caravan of biologists and horse packers had marched into the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness in the summer of 2005 and was literally hours away from starting the restoration project when they learned by radio of Damrell's decision.
"Everything was mobilized. Everything was ready to go. And, yes, that was quite a letdown," said Stafford Lehr, a senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Game, who was the one that received the radio call.
Now, Lehr said he believes the 600-plus page report issued Friday has the answers to all the questions asked by critics of the project. The report addresses, in particular, the fact that rotenone will, as critics note, kill the tiny aquatic insects in the creek that serve as food to trout and other fish.
But Lehr says that within three to five years, the populations those tiny insects will rebound.
It may take five years to a decade to complete the entire project, Lehr said. First, it may take several years of rotenone applications to kill off the non-native trout in the lower parts of Silver King Creek. Then, biologists will only be able to gradually introduce the Paiute cutthroats into the area as the aquatic insect food supply rebounds.
Interbreeding with other varieties of trout is the main threat to the Paiute. It is a paler cousin to the Lahontan cutthroat, and a more distant relative of the rainbows that are native to California waters flowing west to the Pacific.
The Paiute cutthroat trout is listed by the federal government as a species threatened with extinction. The restoration proposal is part of an effort to rebuild the population so it can be de-listed.
PAIUTE CUTTHROAT TROUT
Read the full environmental impact report on the plan to restore the Paiute cutthroat trout to 11 miles of Silver King Creek online at
Construction on first phase of airport business park to get under way...Bruce Spence
Work will begin within a month on a massive San Joaquin County business park near Stockton Metropolitan Airport that has been planned for years.
Master developer Catellus Development Group will be putting in roads and utility hookups in an 84-acre western parcel of the proposed 389-acre business park north of the airport while gearing up to try to get businesses to sign up this year for office/manufacturing, distribution center or air cargo space.
It has been projected that the park will produce about 14,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.
This is a tough economy in which to try to sell new development, said Ben Peterson, a Catellus vice president and marketing executive, but light industrial companies and small-office users are considering the project.
"The main change in our market has been the users that want to have buildings built for them - it's a harder market to get loans," he said.
It's going to be slow until the lending market picks back up, he said, but the wide variety of uses in the park will be a draw.
The initial work will consist of putting in roads, curbs, gutters, storm drains, and water and sewer lines. Peterson said that will cost about $2.4 million.
The conceptual master plan shows a variety of structures on land that is now farmland. That plan depicts only what could be and not necessarily what might be.
For example, the plan for the first phase of development depicts two air cargo terminals, three manufacturing sites or distribution centers and three "office/flex" sites - buildings that combined light manufacturing with office floor space.
The park isn't designed for heavy industrial, though. Nor are there plans for massive big-box distribution centers. There's plenty of land available for that to the north.
It's important that the site is ready to build on right away if you want to sell that to businesses, Peterson said.
"That is essential," said Mike Locke, president and CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership economic development group. "A lot of companies aren't interested in what you might do. They're interested in what you've got entitled, what you are ready to do."
The park is a unique property because of flexibility in uses bordering the airport and because of the upcoming $60 million Arch-Sperry road extension, which will connect Highway 99 with Interstate 5 and provide easy connections for trucks coming from I-5, he said.
The airport area already has easy access from Highway 99 off Arch Road. But trucks coming into the area on Interstate 5 must get to 99 either via the Crosstown Freeway cutting across downtown Stockton or on Highway 120 through Manteca.
A total of $30 million in local government funding had already been lined up for the Arch-Sperry road extension project. The state recently signed off on $30 million in matching money from transportation bond funds.
The connector, which could be completed by 2013, would be a huge boon for the business park, Locke said.
When finished, the extension will include five bridges crossing railroad corridors, roads and French Camp Slough.
The project has been tagged Airpark 599 because of its location between I-5 and Highway 99.
Gregory O'Leary, an industrial sales specialist for Colliers International's Central Valley region, described Airpark 599 as a higher-end business park than is typically seen in south Stockton, featuring attractive entryways and landscaping.
And the addition of the Arch Road extension will definitely enhance the marketability of the park, he said.
But, O'Leary added, "The market is more challenging today than it has ever been in our lifetimes." Still, there are businesses still out there looking for space, he said.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Carlos Villapudua said the county, along with other local governments, is grappling these days with huge issues, ranging from dealing with the growing ranks of the homeless to the massive foreclosure meltdown and all the resulting repercussions.
But the business park development represents a positive move by the county that will pay off beautifully for the whole community as the area draws new businesses bringing new jobs, he said.
"It's going to work for us," he said. "It's just going to take awhile to get there. It's a long-term goal that we can't give up on."
Considering that the county has been shaping the air-park development since early this decade, Villapudua said, "I always felt we were just a tad behind" schedule on the project.
99 is back against long odds...Scott Linesburgh
STOCKTON - Auto racing fans will come to Stockton 99 Speedway today to celebrate what many thought would never happen.
Racing has returned to the historic track. There will be cheers, maybe some tears, and a sense that something extraordinary is happening.
Tracks that close rarely re-open. But Stockton 99 dodged the wrecking ball as deftly as former NASCAR star Ernie Irvan avoided other cars at the quarter-mile oval more than 30 years ago. It took a sagging real-estate market and the hard work, passion and financial commitment of Tony and Carol Noceti to make it happen.
Racing begins at 2:15 p.m. today, weather permitting. The track resumes its regular Saturday night NASCAR schedule next week. That day is also important for the organization, which has seen the number NASCAR tracks in California drop from 19 to 4 in the past 15 years.
Stockton racing fan Mike Matuska, 50, understands the significance of the track's return.
"It's bringing back a piece of Stockton, and it's a chance to relive memories," said Matuska of Stockton, who began attending races at Stockton 99 more than 40 years ago. He and more than 2,000 others were at the track's "soft opening" on March 14, which served as a dress rehearsal for today's grand re-opening.
Even non-racing fans can understand how Matuska and other racing enthusiasts must feel. Most everyone has a special place, perhaps a restaurant, ice cream shop or other business, that harbors special memories. These days, it isn't unusual to find some of those special places shuttered.
Now, imagine if one of your favorite places were closed for two years and went back into business.
That's what's happening on Wilson Way, and it's going to be a party complete with squealing tires and roaring engines.
The Nocetis of French Camp have earned the admiration of the local racing community by stepping up and taking over the management and promotion of the track. It was sold by owners Bob Hunefeld and Ken Clapp to land developers, but the housing market crashed and the developers defaulted. The track sat in disrepair. Some of the buildings had broken windows and graffiti, and weeds were everywhere. Trenches that had been dug into the track surface had to be filled, and the seating and lights had to be reinstalled.
Tony Noceti, a farmer and longtime race car driver and owner, wanted to bring racing back to San Joaquin County. He purchased the bleachers, lights and other items from Stockton 99. He was looking for a spot to build a track in the county, but his first choice was Stockton 99.
When the real-estate deal was called off, the Nocetis signed a five-year contract to run Stockton 99, and spent over $1 million of their own money in repairs and upgrades. They also had more than 300 people volunteer on weekends to clean the place since August.
"The response has been awesome, and we're so grateful," Tony Noceti said. "People love this place."
NASCAR officials also are thrilled to have the track back in the fold. Well-known short tracks such as Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield and El Cajon Speedway have been torn down. Stockton's closest competitor, Altamont Raceway in Tracy, is closed again.
George Silvermann, NASCAR's managing director of racing operations, called 99 a "crown jewel" during a visit to Stockton. Built in 1947, it became the first NASCAR-sanctioned track west of the Mississippi River in 1954.
The Nocetis know Stockton 99 is returning at a challenging time. The economy that inadvertently saved the track could also hinder its success as they try to draw fans against other tracks in Madera and Roseville, and locally against the Stockton Ports and Stockton Lightning.
But they are ready, and so are the 99 faithful. If the weather allows, expect a large crowd today at the tough little track that found a way to survive.
Racing returns to Stockton 99 amid uncertain times
Economy, Tracy track closing among concerns...Scott Linesburgh...3-20-09
STOCKTON - Stockton 99 Speedway's new promoters are confident they can be successful in a changing auto racing world.
But there's no doubt there are challenges to selling tickets in a struggling economy.
Stockton 99's official Grand Opening will occur at 2:15 p.m. Sunday, completing its return from a two-year hiatus. Promoters Tony and Carol Noceti held what they dubbed a "soft opening" last Saturday featuring a demolition derby and believe everything is ready to go.
"There are challenges, but we expect we'll do well," Carol Noceti said. "We absolutely think we can be successful in this economy."
Carol Noceti said they realize the local racing scene isn't the same it was at the end of the 2006 season. Altamont Raceway is closed and the economy will make it tougher on drivers to compete. Stockton 99 will try to stand out to get its share of the entertainment dollar.
The closest racing facility to Stockton 99 will not run races, at least for now. Altamont, the half-mile asphalt facility that is technically in Tracy but under the jurisdiction of Alameda County, has suspended operations indefinitely, according to owner Mel Andrews, and is awaiting the completion of an environmental report before seeing if it will continue to pursue a full-time license. Altamont had been operating on a temporary use permit from Alameda County for three seasons, and last season ran under several restrictions, including only racing during daytime hours.
Andrews said a decision about Altamont's future will be made after seeing what changes have to be made to satisfy the county. There is no date set for the competition of the environmental report.
"Last season the county put on some temporary restrictions which were more financially detrimental than anticipated, but I wouldn't say that we've written off the year," Andrews said. "We're kind of in the midst of deciding what options we have, even if it means proposing to that we run four or five major shows instead of a full season. We'll see."
With Altamont at least temporarily off track, there are just four NASCAR-sanctioned short tracks remaining in California, down from a high of 19 in the early 1990s. Three of the tracks are in the Central Valley - Stockton 99, Madera Speedway and All-American Speedway in Roseville. The other is in Irwindale.
While it's unclear if Altamont's closing will affect attendance, it could impact the car counts.
Kenny Shepherd, who runs Madera, said he believes tracks can keep fan and driver enthusiasm high, and he sees improvement from last season in at least one way.
"I believe the $4 a gallon gas made it tougher last year than it is now," Shepherd said. "It crushed the fan; it crushed the sport. I'd rather have the $2 gas even with the pessimism about the economy."
Driver and car owner David Philpott of Tracy said the economy will have an effect. He owns an auto garage in Tracy and admits business is down. So is sponsorship.
"It's going to be tougher to get money all around," Philpott said. "You'll see people cut where they can, maybe only testing one day instead of two or buying four new tires instead of eight. Some are going to have to run on a budget, and if that stuff breaks, that's it. I expect good car counts at the openers, then we'll see how it goes."
Tony Noceti said he has had a good turnout at recent practice sessions at Stockton 99, and a large crowd is expected Sunday. Carol Noceti said she's working to make sure they keep coming out.
A standard ticket for a Saturday night race at Stockton 99 will be $15 for an adult. Children ages 10 and under will be admitted free. Track officials have also worked to make the facility family-friendly, and there are plans to put in a children's play area.
"We're striving to offer family-oriented, economical entertainment," Carol Noceti said. "We have to be able to offer people the best deal for their money. I think we're helped by the fact that so many people are excited that the track is back."
Starbucks, Costco and Whole Foods team up on labor bill...Edwin Chan; Editing by Peter Cooney,Reuters
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Starbucks, Costco Wholesale Corp and Whole Foods Market are joining forces to propose alternatives to a bill that makes it easier for workers to unionize but is strongly opposed by U.S. corporations.
The three retail giants said on Saturday they sought a "third way" as big business and labor unions face off over the Employee Free Choice Act, backed by President Barack Obama.
The "card check" legislation would let workers form a union when a majority of employees sign authorization cards. That would change the current practice in which workers usually vote on unionizing, although the bill would leave the election option open for workers to choose.
Passing the bill is a top priority of labor unions, which in November helped Obama win the White House and the Democrats increase their hold on Congress. Unions, which suffered decades of declining membership, argue that elections allow anti-union managers to intimidate and harass employees.
U.S. businesses and investors oppose the legislation, with analysts saying retail names from Wal-Mart to Target would face higher labor costs and greater unionization risks. Wal-Mart said last week it was confident the legislation would be defeated in Congress.
Starbucks, Costco and Whole Foods, which invited other corporations, unions and public interest groups to join them, proposed instead that unions be given more access to meet with workers, stricter penalties for labor violations and a guaranteed right to request secret ballots in all circumstances.
"We believe in and trust our employees, which is neither anti-union nor pro-status quo," said Costco CEO James Sinegal.
The three companies will provide more details of their proposals on Sunday.
"Given the severe economic crisis facing America, it is time to avoid the polarization that has occurred on both sides of this issue, and instead, come together to find a productive approach," said Lanny Davis, an attorney with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, who was cited in the statement.
The Huffington Post
Wal-Mart's "Meat Wars" With Union Sizzles On...Al Norman, founder of Sprawl-Busters, and the author of "The Case Against Wal-Mart."...3-16-09
The "Meat Wars" between Wal-Mart and the United Food and Commercial Workers was on the front burner this week, as a court ruling gave both sides some fat to chew on.
In February, 2000, workers in the meat department of a Wal-Mart supercenter in Jacksonville, Texas, voted 7 to 3 to join Local 540 of the UFCW, becoming the first U.S. workers to vote in a union at Wal-Mart. "This victory could open the floodgates of pent up worker frustration at the abusive treatment, low pay, and lousy benefits at Wal-Mart," said then-UFCW President Doug Dority. Dority called the Jacksonville election "the vote heard round the world." The UFCW charged that Wal-Mart went to great lengths to try to cut the vote their way, including "stacking" the meat department with anti-union workers. Rather than stew over what the vote meant, Wal-Mart decided to do a little cutting of its own.
In a move that they said had "absolutely nothing" to do with retaliation against the union, Wal-Mart announced several weeks later that it was closing down its meat-cutting operations in 180 stores across six states, and switching to "prepackaged" meat. Wal-Mart claimed it would find jobs for the meat-cutters. The company explained its move to prepackaged meat was in the works for months, and would take effect by June, 2000. The UFCW petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an injunction to prevent Wal-Mart from cutting the meat cutters. "Changing the way all of its store sells meat shows the extent to which Wal-Mart will go to keep the union out of its stores," the UFCW told reporters. "Any time management concocts a scheme to ratchet down people's livelihoods, it says a lot about the real nature of the company."
Three years went by, before an NLRB judge ordered Wal-Mart to restore the meat department, and the meat cutters, and to recognize and bargain with the union over the effects of any change caused by the switch to prepackaged meat. "The elimination of work requiring their special skills greatly affected both job satisfaction and future earning potential," Administrative Law Judge Keltner Locke wrote in his ruling. "The absence of future wage increases, coupled with the effects of inflation, constitute a very demonstrable and adverse effect," the judge concluded. (Wal-Mart must have been stung by this ruling, because Judge Locke was the same judge who ruled in the company's favor in two other cases, including a vote in Palestine, Texas, that defeated UFCW representation.) "This is a historic decision," the UFCW said of Locke's ruling, "the first bargaining order issued against Wal-Mart in the United States. It is a victory for all Wal-Mart workers who are fighting for a voice at work."
But Locke's decision only led to more slicing and dicing. Both parties in the case appealed. The UFCW was unhappy that the court's ruling said the meat cutter's bargaining unit was non-existent as of July, 2000, when Wal-Mart moved to prepacked meat. The union argued that there was a continuing "community of interest" that set the meat cutters apart from other workers at the store. The Judge did find that the former meat cutters had separate supervision, distinct required skills, higher pay, and were hired specifically for the meat department. Wal-Mart also appealed Locke's decision, displeased with the requirement that the retailer re-establish the meat-cutting division in the department. "Wal-Mart has consistently contended that the union should never have been certified in Jacksonville because the election result was improperly influenced by union misconduct and because the bargaining unit requested was improperly narrow," the company said in a press release. "This portion of the ruling will be appealed."
In the meantime, Wal-Mart informally settled with at least four of the fired meat cutters, giving them back pay.
On March 14, 2008 -- more than eight years after the "Meatcutter's 10" vote in Texas -- a 3 judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld both of the NLRB's 2003 decisions. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said that the Jacksonville unit did not meet the test for a bargaining unit, because the workers do no specialized cutting. The NLRB's precedent is that when a store closes, the employer must to bargain over the effects of that closing, and the NLRB ruled that the Jacksonville department's conversion was like a closing because the bargaining unit was eliminated. The Appeals judges agreed with the NLRB that Wal-Mart had engaged in an unfair labor practice by failing to bargain with UFCW over the effects of the closure. So neither the UFCW nor Wal-Mart got the relief it wanted.
"I have always believed," Sam Walton wrote, "that we don't need unions at Wal-Mart." His company has gone on to demonstrate that preventing workers from having an organized voice is worth shutting down a department, worth shutting down an entire store, worth paying eight years of legal bills. Wal-Mart reportedly called the axing of the meat cutters "the ultimate union avoidance strategy."
Over the years, Wal-Mart workers who have taken the time to communicate outside their corporate world, have described a bureaucracy that thrives on fear and intimidation, in which workers who speak out are eliminated---much like fat is cut from meat. To help Americans "save money, live better," Wal-Mart has made the strategic decision that the company must save money on its employees---so that others may live better. The workers at Jacksonville were the sacrificial meat that had to be cut as an example for the rest of Wal-Mart's "associates" of what happens to union sympathizers.
The Texas meat cutters are a reminder that Wal-Mart's 1.6 million workers are, in fact, all part of one giant meat department.