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Target under fire over union vote

Labor board to issue complaint against retail giant; employee fired

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The National Labor Relations Board is issuing a complaint to Target as a result of its ongoing investigation of numerous charges filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 union against the retail giant’s conduct in a June federal election at the Valley Stream store.

Evidence shows that Target violated federal law in its dealings with employees prior to the union vote, according to Al Bryer, NLRB’s regional director in Brooklyn. “The company had four different policies that violated the National Labor Relations Act,” Bryer said. In addition, the company also made unlawful threats to employees, he said.

In May, Local 1500 filed five unfair labor practice charges, and later, 27 objections to Target’s behavior in the June 17 election. Union officials claimed that Target made illegal actions during the vote, in which the union was voted down 137-85. “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 continuously deny any wrongdoing. They initially filed a counter complaint, which was recently withdrawn, Bryer said.

However, NLRB officials say they believe Target is guilty of two of the union’s charges. Officials claim that the company issued threats to its employees. Target gave the impression that workers would be under surveillance and fired if they voted for the union, and that the store would close, according to Bryer. Union witnesses told NLRB that the company ignored employees’ rights.

Labor board representatives also said that Target violated federal policies. Employees were not allowed to wear pro-union apparel, though federal law permits that it can be worn at the workplace. In addition, off-duty employees were unlawfully banned from non-work areas like the store’s parking lot. Target also prohibited workers from talking about the union on their own time, and distributing union materials in non-work areas. “We think their dress code policy prohibiting union paraphernalia was unlawful, and their distribution of literature policy was too broad,” Bryer said.

Employees first shared their complaints of low pay, few hours and lack of benefits and entitlements with the union in February. As a result, union officials filed a petition for the federal vote amidst early talk of illegal activities at Target. Leading up to the election, NLRB officials learned of the union’s dissatisfaction, prompting an investigation.

Union officials said they expected the NLRB’s decision to be in their favor. “We were confident from the beginning that Target’s conduct was illegal,” said Ali Waddy, a union organizer. “It was not surprising.”

Target offered its response to the pending complaint. “Target is committed to following all state and federal laws,” said Molly Snyder, a company spokeswoman. “The company believes it has done so throughout this process.”

The company will have 10 days to respond to the complaint, with the option to settle or wait for a decision from NLRB on the remaining charges and objections. The investigation could take an additional few weeks, Bryer said.

In related news, union supporter Tashawna Greene was terminated as an employee at the Valley Stream Target store earlier this month. The single mother of a 6-year-old daughter said she was fired as a result of her outspokenness about joining the union and employee rights. “I believe I was fired because of my participation in the union campaign,” she said, “and because I’m for the union, they wanted to get rid of me.”

Greene said she had was singled out and harassed for the last several months at Target. She was kicked off the grounds several times, and even followed into a company bathroom, she said. After making complaints to her managers, nothing was done. Target officials later told Greene that she was terminated because of “impudent behavior,” she said.

The NLRB’s actions are a victory for her. “It shows companies like this can’t get away with this stuff,” she said. “We are happy that the NLRB is seeing the illegal activity at Target. They been doing it for a long time, and it’s time to stop them.” She also advises employees to support the union, which has been her “backbone” throughout the ordeal.

Waddy said that Target has been aggressively going after its employees. “The process with the NLRB is extremely important as the company continues to break the law with things like Tashawna Greene,” she said.

Officials from the retail giant denied these claims. “Target’s environment promotes listening, responding to concerns of team members and always giving honest feedback,” Snyder said. “This team member recently acted in an overly hostile, disruptive manner that is inconsistent with Target’s policies and therefore her employment was terminated.”