updated 2/25/2005 6:03:17 PM ET 2005-02-25T23:03:17

Workers at a Wal-Mart Tire & Lube Express voted 17-1 against union representation Friday, rejecting efforts to establish what would have been the first union inside any Wal-Mart store in the United States.

United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Dave Minshall said the group will ask the National Labor Relations Board to throw the results out, saying no union member was allowed to observe the election and Wal-Mart added employees to the unit to dilute the strength of the union supporters.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said the union was offered an opportunity to provide a substitute observer but could not find one. She said any workers added to the operation were a response to business needs and not part of an anti-union effort.

Minshall said workers had been subjected to intimidation and harassment before the vote. Josh Noble, a tire shop worker who said he voted in favor of the UFCW, said he had been harassed by other Wal-Mart employees and that managers “kind of blew it off” when he reported one incident.

“It’s fear that won this election for Wal-Mart,” Minshall said.

Gallagher said she could not comment on incidents reported by employees or the way in which they were handled, but she said the company does not tolerate harassment or discrimination.

“I can tell you this was a democratic, secret election and I’m going to let the vote speak for itself,” she said.

Other tire shop workers did not immediately return phone calls.

A “yes” vote would have allowed UFCW to represent about 20 workers at the tire shop. Wal-Mart had objected to holding the vote, saying the tire shop was not a stand-alone operation but only a department of a larger store.

In recent years, the union has targeted Tire & Lube Express shops nationwide as its best possible chance to bring unions to the retailer, but previous elections have also been unsuccessful.

Meatcutters at a Texas store voted in favor of a union in 2000, but shortly afterward, Wal-Mart eliminated the position companywide, insisting the move was not related to the election. Earlier this month, the company said it would close a store in Quebec, Canada, because of what company officials called “unreasonable demands” by workers trying to negotiate the first-ever union contract with the retailer.

Daniel J.B. Mitchell, a professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, said Wal-Mart has used a two-prong campaign to avoid organized labor, trying to keep employees happy enough that they don’t try to unionize and taking dramatic steps if they do.

“They’re not different in many respects from many other nonunion employers that both try to keep people reasonably happy and at the same time, if they’re threatened with union organization, take a fairly hard line,” he said.

“From the viewpoint of an employee who might be called upon to cast a vote in an NLRB election, you would be thinking to yourself, ’How bad is it really here, and what might be the consequence if we bring a union in,’ and you draw information on that from what happened at other locations,” he said.

Wal-Mart shares rose 3 cents to close at $51.49 in Friday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $51.08 to $61.31.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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