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    Wal-Mart Talks with Chinese Unions about Unionizing Stores

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. and BEIJING -- Is it a case of, When in Rome? In an unprecedented move from the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reportedly met with officials from Communist China's main trade union group yesterday to discuss how to expand unions into all of the retailer's Chinese stores.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. and BEIJING -- Is it a case of, When in Rome? In an unprecedented move from the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. reportedly met with officials from Communist China's main trade union group yesterday to discuss how to expand unions into all of the retailer's Chinese stores.

    Executives from Wal-Mart have begun what will likely be a series of meetings with officials from the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, or ACFTU. The meetings come after the news in recent weeks that unions have been established in five of Wal-Mart's Chinese stores, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal's online edition.

    While Wal-Mart has no unionized stores in the U.S., the retailer did inherit some unionized stores through acquisitions in countries such as Brazil and Japan.

    The ACFTU has strong ties to the Chinese government, and has been aggressively attempting to establish unions in foreign companies in China, according to the report. Critics of the ACFTU said that the group actually serves as a tool that helps Chinese authorities control workers and prevent the formation of independent unions.

    Different from Western trade unions, the ACFTU primarily focuses on promoting good relations between employers and employees.

    Wal-Mart China spokesman Jonathan Dong told the Wall Street Journal that the company is working together with the ACFTU to potentially establish grass-roots unions within the company's stores in China.

    Joe Hatfield, chief executive of Wal-Mart Asia, said in a statement, "I fully anticipate working collaboratively with leadership from ACFTU and Union organizations at all levels to create a model working relationship."

    Wal-Mart has 60 stores in China, and employs more than 31,000 workers there.

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