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The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which is trying to organize workers at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., filed unfair labor practice charges against the world’s largest retailer to force it to release documents related to the ouster of its former vice chairman and alleged anti-union efforts. The filing Tuesday with The National Labor Relations Board aims to “seek justice for workers at Wal-Mart,” not financial rewards, union spokesman Jim Papian said. “There is a pattern of illegal activities on the part of this company,” he said. The union had already asked Wal-Mart for the documents, and the charges would formalize the request. After investigating the documents, the NLRB could dismiss the case, or hold a hearing in front of an administrative law judge if it finds the case holds merit. It could also issue such remedies as making information about workplace rights available to Wal-Mart employees. The UFCW’s move follows a Wall Street Journal story last week that cited former employees as saying Tom Coughlin, the company’s former vice chairman and longtime board member, had diverted thousands of dollars in expense account reimbursements for secret payments to union members willing to identify pro-union employees at stores. Wal-Mart has strongly denied that any such payments were made. Coughlin resigned last month after an internal probe turned up expense account improprieties of up to a half-a-million dollars. Three Wal-Mart employees, including a company officer, also lost their jobs, and the company turned over materials to federal prosecutors. Coughlin has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyer is pressing the company to provide the defense with documents given to federal prosecutors related to the former Wal-Mart executive’s conduct. “I want whatever they relied on, whatever they turned over the U.S. Attorney,” William W. Taylor III of Washington, D.C. said. Earlier this week, Taylor said limiting access to the documents “not only prevents him [Coughlin] from defending himself, it also assures the investigation will be one-sided.” Mona Williams, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, could not be reached for comment on the union’s charges. Earlier in the day, she referred questions to a previous company statement that Wal-Mart had advised authorities of “the unsupported assertion about payments to union representatives � [and] specifically asked the U.S. Attorney to investigate this assertion as well.” The company has maintained that no one at Wal-Mart, Coughlin included, was authorized to pay people for information about efforts to organize Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart has fought off efforts by the UFCW to organize its U.S. stores, but the union has been making some headway in Canada. Wal-Mart said its own probe of alleged anti-union payments turned up no evidence. “To the contrary, the evidence shows that corporate funds were misappropriated and used for the personal benefit of specific individuals,” the statement said. Associated Press Writer Chuck Bartels in Little Rock, Ark., contributed to this report. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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