Few companies serve so frequently as Wal-Mart to illustrate why workers need Employee Free Choice.

Yesterday, after nine years–almost a decade of legal maneuverings and circumventions of federal law–Wal-Mart was finally forced to the bargaining table in Jacksonville, Texas.

More than nine years ago, workers in the meat department in the Jacksonville Wal-Mart voted to be represented by UFCW Local 540. And that should have been that. Workers voted for a union, and they should have had a contract soon after.

But instead of bargaining, Wal-Mart ignored the workers, refusing to bargain with them or provide information to their union. And after the NLRB issued a complaint against Wal-Mart, the company tried to move the goalposts. Wal-Mart claimed workers in the meat department had lost their right to representation because the skilled meatcutting jobs had been replaced by a prepackaged meat program.

Wal-Mart finally ran out of excuses—it only took eight years and several legal battles. The United States Court of Appeals forced the company to bargain with the Jacksonville workers.

When the outcome of an election is uncertain for this long in other countries, we call it a coup. But when it happens here, it’s just another day on the job for the millions of American workers for whom a voice on the job is being unjustly denied. The story in Jacksonville, while particularly alarming, is far from the only one of its kind.

And that’s exactly why we need the Employee Free Choice Act–so that companies like Wal-Mart won’t be able to deny workers the right to bargain collectively. A multi-billion dollar war chest and a team of corporate lobbyists shouldn’t be prerequisites to the free exercise of federally-protected workplace rights.

The Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field and make sure that when workers like those in Jacksonville vote for a union, they get a union–not a nine-year, uphill fight against a multi-national corporate empire.

4workers

4workers

Amber Sparks is a Senior Communications Specialist for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream.