08/11/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

First Wal-Mart Union Begins In China

The first Wal-Mart trade union in China was formed after the company bowed to government demands for organized labor in its stores, The New York Times reported Friday.

Wal-Mart's reluctance to allow unions, particularly in the United States where they remain banned from stores, has been a point of controversy for many years. But the government-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions fought for the right to create branches in the company's 60 outlets.

Beth Keck, director of international corporate affairs for Wal-Mart, said she was aware of the reports of Chinese unions forming and said the company hopes to have a "cordial and productive relationship" with the federation.

"We know they have been interested in having a relationship with our company for some time," Keck said. "We will, of course, be looking forward to how this will evolve."

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has operations in 15 countries, many of which have at least some employees that are union members.

The United States, Keck said, is the "clear exception."

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