OPERATIONS

Union agrees to end picketing at Wal-Mart stores

BY Staff Writer

New York — Labor groups that have long spoken out against Wal-Mart Stores will stop much of their picketing against the world’s largest retailer, though they still plan to continue to push the company to improve working conditions.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, and OUR Walmart reached an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board, the groups and Walmart said on Thursday.

The labor groups claim that they were not trying to unionize Walmart workers with their actions, which included a small number of Walmart’s more than 1.3 million U.S. employees themselves engaging in protests outside of Walmart stores.

The agreement comes after Wal-Mart filed an unfair labor practice charge against the UFCW in November, asking the NLRB to halt what the retailer said were unlawful attempts to disrupt its business.

Wal-Mart filed with the NLRB after groups planned major protests at its stores for Black Friday, a busy shopping day. The NLRB did not issue any ruling before that day, and while several protests took place they did not hurt sales, as the Walmart chain of thousands of stores across the United States said it had its best Black Friday ever.

The UFCW and OUR Walmart — a UFCW-supported group of current and former Wal-Mart workers — said that they do not intend to have Wal-Mart recognize or bargain with them as the representative of Wal-Mart employees.

The UFCW and OUR Walmart will stop any unlawful recognitional picketing, will stop encouraging unlawful disruptions by other affiliated groups and will stop any picketing at Walmart stores and facilities for at least 60 days.

The agreement is unlikely to make a huge difference to the campaign, as OUR Walmart, the UFCW and others can still publicly voice their concerns without doing anything that would be legally defined as picketing, said John Logan, professor of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University.

OUR Walmart said the agreement does not limit its ability to help employees in their dealings with Walmart over labor rights and standards. The UFCW said that the pact allows the union to continue its support of OUR Walmart and its supporters.

In mid-January, Walmart said that it would give part-time workers the first shot at full-time positions. It also plans to make scheduling more transparent, giving part-time workers the ability to choose more of their own hours.

"Walmart is hearing us and at least starting to make changes that will improve the lives of workers and their families and our communities, and we will continue to raise our voices until there is real change at Walmart," Colby Harris, a member of OUR Walmart from Dallas, said in a statement provided by the group.

Members of OUR Walmart pay dues of $5 per month.

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News

McDonald’s South Africa taps IBM to enhance social media facilitating

BY Staff Writer

Johannesburg — IBM announced that McDonald’s South Africa is using IBM social business software to embrace the convergence of social, mobile and cloud facilitating its expansion to new markets and enabling its employees to collaborate more effectively.

McDonald’s is working with IBM and its business partner, Knowledge Dimension, to transform the way its almost 200 restaurants and 8000 employees communicate and collaborate, thereby helping the company communicate and operate more effectively. McDonald’s will begin transforming into a social enterprise to help geographically dispersed employees to communicate more effectively, sharing ideas that will allow them to deliver exceptional customer service.

“With our intended aggressive expansion plans – growing the number of restaurants by approximately 25 restaurants a year – improved communications is undoubtedly a business imperative,” said Greg Solomon, managing director for McDonald’s South Africa. “Equipping our employees with a social network to improve communication is critical in helping us fulfill our brand promise to customers for quality, service, cleanliness, and value.”

McDonald’s SA is currently using IBM Connections and IBM Sametime instant messaging software to support internal communication and training requirements across their branch network.

The McDonald’s crew (staff at restaurant level) will access the platform via a first-to-market in South Africa mobile solution, supplemented by in-restaurant touch-screen docking stations. This phase is scheduled for completion in first quarter 2013.

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REAL ESTATE

Australia’s Lorna Jane expanding in the U.S.

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Australian import Lorna Jane will open the largest store in its U.S. portfolio, a 3,000-sq.-ft. unit in San Francisco, in February.

The retailer, which specializes in fashionable yoga clothing, opened 10 stores in Southern California in 2012, and is now expanding into the Bay Area. Lorna Jane is also looking at locations in Corte Madera, San Jose, Palo Alto and Walnut Creek, as it looks to open 15 more stores by the end of this year, the report said.

Valued slightly over $13 billion and growing nationwide, the market for yoga clothing and other activewear is the fastest growing segment of the apparel industry.

Lorna Jane operates more than 135 stores worldwide.

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