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Report on Business magazine and La Presse have named Wal-Mart Canada one of the nation’s best companies to work for, the fourth time in five years in a row that the retailer has achieved this distinction. Wal-Mart is the largest company to make the list.

The ranking is determined through both employee surveys and expert analyses of human resources policies.

The announcement is ironic since it comes as Wal-Mart Canada continues to do battle with union forces over the efforts by organized labor to gain representation in its stores.

Late last year, Quebec’s Labour Board ruled that when Wal-Mart closed its store in JonquiËre in 2005 – after the employees in the unit had voted to unionize so they could engage in collective bargaining – it was illegal retaliation. The Board said that Wal-Mart must compensate its former employees at the store, though the precise amount of compensation has not yet been determined.

Wal-Mart maintained that the store was only a marginal performer before the unionization, and that any increase in labor costs would force it into the red.

• The Wall Street Journal reported that “Sam's Club, the membership-warehouse division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., plans to unveil a new health-insurance offering for its customers on Jan. 4, making such a service available in all of its U.S. stores for the first time.”

The service will “allow small-business owners with Sam's Club memberships to purchase health-insurance plans for their employees through Salt Lake City-based insurance broker Extend Benefits Group LLC. The coverage is available elsewhere, but Extend Benefits will charge Sam's Club members lower administrative fees: $150 to establish an account instead of $500; and $4 a month for administration rather than $5.”

The WSJ also suggests that the new offering will help the company justify a $5 increase in its business membership, from $35 a year to $40.

• The Associated Press reports that federal officials have arrested 14 illegal immigrants who were working at a Wal-Mart distribution center. All of the illegal workers reportedly were employed by a subcontractor, and not by Wal-Mart, which cooperated with the investigation.

Of course, Wal-Mart reached an out-of-court settlement with the federal government last year, paying $11 million in fines to settle a case in which it was accused of using illegal workers to do sanitation work in its stores – workers that were employed by subcontractors.

• In one of the more interesting court filings that MNB has ever read about, Wal-Mart has argued that former vice chairman Tom Coughlin had a legal responsibility to tell the company that he had embezzled money.

The lawsuit is just the latest in a series of legal battles between Wal-Mart and Coughlin, who was a longtime associate and intimate of company founder Sam Walton. Coughlin retired from his position as vice chairman of the retailer last January, and then was forced to resign from the board of directors several months later amid charges of financial misconduct. Coughlin has denied the charges, saying that he used the money appropriated from Wal-Mart to pay off informers who kept him apprised about union activities.

The company already has lost one suit in the Coughlin controversy, its attempt to void Coughlin’s multi-million dollar retirement package. The courts said that Wal-Mart couldn’t avoid paying Coughlin because the two parties had signed an agreement not to bring such claims against each other.

Wal-Mart is now suing Coughlin for a different kind of fraud – lying to the company about his activities, which then resulted in the company filing incorrect statements with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
KC's View:
Ah, the law.

Wasn’t it actually Coughlin’s responsibility not to do anything illegal, as opposed to tell the company that he had done something illegal?

It is distinctions like these that keep law firms in business, the courts in a frenzied mess, and makes simple folk like us shaking our heads about society’s general lack of common sense.