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Local 1500, Target gear up for Feb. 1 trial

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After the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 filed numerous charges against Target on Sept. 21, citing violations of the National Labor Relations Act, the National Labor Relations Board conducted an investigation on the issue and set a trial date for Feb. 1 at the NLRB’s regional office in Brooklyn. The charges stem from Target’s actions during a federal union election held in June at the retail location in Valley Stream.

Last May, Local 1500 filed five unfair labor practice charges, and later, 27 objections to Target’s behavior in the June 17 election, as reported by the Herald in August. Union officials claimed that Target made illegal actions during the vote, in which the union was voted down 137-85. “As we stated during the election, there was no way they could win this election without breaking the law,” said Patrick Purcell, spokesperson for the UFCW. “We’re prepared to make sure that witnesses come forward, that the case is heard and we’re confident that Target will be found guilty of violating federal law.”

According to Purcell, there have been further charges filed against Target recently. He also said that conditions for Valley Stream Target employees have not improved. “We know for a fact that since the day we filed for the election, over 20 percent of the employees at this location are no longer there,” he said. “In this economy, how does any place lose 20 percent of its employees? Not laid off — these were people who were just either fired or left because of the working conditions.”

Target officials maintain the stance that there was no wrongdoing. “Target is committed to following all laws and firmly believes we did so throughout this process,” said company spokeswoman Molly Snyder. “We believe this was a fair process resulting in a fair election in which our team members rejected unionization.”

Employees first shared their complaints of low pay, few hours and lack of benefits and entitlements with the union last 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.

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 Alvin Blyer, NLRB’s regional director in Brooklyn. Union witnesses told NLRB that the company ignored employees’ rights.

Labor board representatives also said that Target violated federal policies. They say 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, according to officials, and target also prohibited workers from talking about the union on their own time, and distributing union materials in non-work areas.

The Feb. 1 trial will give both sides a chance to present their cases before an administrative law judge. Both Target officials and Local 1500 members are confident in their side of the story. “We believe these allegations are without merit and look forward to presenting the facts during the hearing process,” Snyder said.

Purcell sees the outcome of the case a bit differently. “They’re completely ignorant of their problems and they have created this monstrosity that they now have,” he said of Target officials. “We went from workers trying to improve their wages to a federal trial. They need to get their heads out of the sand and they need to recognize that there are issues to deal with.”