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JACKSONVILLE, Texas - A judge has ordered Wal-Mart to reopen its meat-cutting department and bargain with unionized butchers whose jobs were eliminated when the retailer switched to case-ready meat.
On Wednesday Judge Keltner Locke, a National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge, ordered Wal-Mart to meet with the butchers and negotiate over the effects of the change.
"This is a historic decision -- the first bargaining order issued against Wal-Mart in the United States," said union leader Johnny Rodriguez in a statement. "It's a victory for all Wal-Mart workers who are fighting for a voice at work."
In 2000, seven of 10 butchers at the Wal-Mart here voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, marking the only union success at a Wal-Mart store. Soon after, Wal-Mart announced it was closing its meat-cutting departments across the country, and many of the butchers were reassigned to meat stockers.
"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," Wal-Mart said in a statement. "This portion of the ruling will be appealed."