In a controversial, attention-grabbing union vote at the Valley Stream Target on June 17, store employees were denied a fair and free election, says officials from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 Union.
The nation’s largest union for retail workers is now requesting a new election, and have filed 27 objections against Target for unfair conduct. The objections are in addition to numerous unfair labor practices charges filed against the company leading up to the election.
“Instead of playing by the rules, Target showed they were willing to do whatever it took to keep their workers from attaining a basic right — respect at work,” said Bruce Both, president of UFCW Local 1500.
Target officials have denied any wrongdoing and have filed their own charges against the union. A petition, countering the union’s initial complaints, was filed by the retail giant against the union prior to the election, according to Al Bryer, NLRB’s regional director in Brooklyn. The company stated that the union coerced employees to make anti-gay, racially motivated, and threatening statements toward store supervisors and other employees, according to the petition.
Back in February, employees made initial contact with the labor union, complaining of low pay and hours, and lack of benefits and entitlements. In response to the complaints, the union filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board, granting a federal vote on whether to unionize. The effort was voted down 137-85.
Several complaints quickly surfaced that Target was taking illegal actions, and spreading anti-union propaganda to employees on numerous websites, including Facebook.
According to an NLRB case report, union officials claimed that employees were offered free coffee, tea, donuts and other food to “discourage union support,” not allowed to wear union buttons, interrogated about the union, and threatened that they would lose their jobs if the union won, amongst other charges.
“Eighty-five courageous workers from Valley Stream should be commended for withstanding the intimidation and scare tactics Target management suffocated them with every day leading to the June 17 election,” Both said. Target had an opportunity to become a corporate role model and do right by its employees, he added, but instead chose to focus on profit growth.
Target officials did not comment specifically on the pending charges or allegations. “Target is committed to following all laws and firmly believes we did so throughout this process,” said spokeswoman Molly Snyder. “We believe this was a fair election in which our team members had the chance to make private decisions. It was our hope that our team members’ decision would have been honored and that the union would have respected our team’s personal decisions not to unionize.”
Company officials said their emphasis is on creating a workplace environment where team members don’t want or need union representation, and that Target works to create an environment of mutual trust with its employees, Snyder also said.
Following the election, NLRB announced proposed changes to the union election process, intending to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and post-election procedures, and facilitate the use of electronic communications and document filing, officials said. The proposed amendments called for parties in a dispute to state their positions by the start of any federal hearings, and for the non-petitioning party to provide a preliminary voters list, among other items. Essentially, the rules will make sure employees are free to choose whether or not they are represented at work, in a quick, fair and accurate way, said Chairman Wilma B. Liebman. The NLRB is set to discuss the proposed rules at an open public meeting later this month, according to its website.
Union officials offered some insight on the proposed changes. “The proposed NLRB rule reinforces our statement that the process is unbalanced,” said Pat Purcell, a Local 1500 spokesman. “The rule change would eliminate excessive delays in the vote, delays which allow companies to further their anti-union propaganda in the stores to their employees. This rule change is a step in the right direction toward giving more workers respect, a voice on the job and rebalancing our economy.”
Purcell said he is confident that Target’s actions will result in a new election. NLRB officials said it will take some time to examine all the charges.