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    Wal-Mart Workers Unifying, but Not Unionizing, in Florida

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In what may be a step toward union organization, employees of some central Florida Wal-Mart stores have formed a workers group to air their complaints about what they claim is poor treatment by the large retailer.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In what may be a step toward union organization, employees of some central Florida Wal-Mart stores have formed a workers group to air their complaints about what they claim is poor treatment by the large retailer.

    The Associated Press reported on Friday that about 250 employees and former workers from 40 stores in central Florida have joined the newly created Wal-Mart Workers Association to protest a recent reduction of hours and schedule changes that may jeopardize their health care benefits. The heads of the group say word-of-mouth advertising is attracting 15 to 20 new members every week.

    The group's leaders told the AP they hope their efforts will convince the company to listen to its people and make some changes. Wal-Mart characterized the effort as another attempt by unions to "get their hands in the pockets of some of its 1.3 million workers in the United States," according to the report.

    "This is a labor organization attempting to masquerade as something else," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Christi Gallagher.

    The United Food and Commercial Workers union is among the sponsors of the new workers association, along with the Service Employees International Union, and Acorn, an advocacy group for the poor. Central Florida was chosen for the launch because of Wal-Mart's aggressive expansion here.

    Nine Wal-Mart Supercenters have opened in Florida so far this year to go along with a dozen new stores last year, according to the company. The state has 170 Supercenters and discount stores, 39 Sam's Club stores, eight Neighborhood Markets, and six distribution centers. More than 92,000 people work in the company's Florida facilities.

    Another Wal-Mart workers association project is being planned in the Dallas area with hopes of expanding it to other cities, according to the report.

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