Skip to comments.Retailer plays on workers' fears of losing jobs to flush union bid
Posted on 06/27/2011 12:14:49 PM PDT by Graybeard58
From the moment the election was set to determine whether a Target Corp. store would be unionized for the first time, the company got very tough, very fast.
The retail giant hired Jackson Lewis, one of the country's fiercest "union avoidance" law firms, to help keep Target's 1,755-store chain union-free.
Using blunt language on the motives and effectiveness of the organizing union, the company seized on the uncertainty about pay and hours -- the very issues that sparked the union effort -- to raise doubts in workers' minds. You may be unhappy with working conditions, Target told employees at its Valley Stream, N.Y., store, but it could be a lot worse if you accept the overtures of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW.
The store itself might not even survive, the company suggested.
Target emphasized such messages in mandatory meetings and fliers distributed to workers in the weeks leading up to the vote on June 17. In the end, a strong majority of Valley Stream workers saw the company's view as the safer play, rejecting the union in a 137-85 vote. The stark defeat validated a hard-nosed approach experts say big-box retailers and non-union grocery stores will continue to use to avoid collective bargaining.
"They've got it down to a piece of art of how they pick apart these campaigns," said Bernie Hesse, special projects director of Local 1189 of the UFCW in Minneapolis. "Retailers have been effective in developing an anti-union culture and a culture of being able to tear apart any sort of organizing."
The Valley Stream initiative was particularly vulnerable to Target's approach because it was built on frustration and open to emotional swings, said Chris Tilly, director of UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. "Those kinds of campaigns have a susceptibility to a management strategy that says, 'You may be unhappy with management, but it could be a lot worse with the union.'"
"Unemployment is high," Tilly said, explaining why workers would hesitate to vote for a union. "People are still nervous about losing jobs. Workers have to stick out their necks."
The retail industry also brings unique challenges for unions. Low pay and limited work hours keep the workforce changing, making it harder to organize, said Douglas McCabe, a labor relations expert at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business. And there's nothing in the law that disallows a company from waging a campaign against a union, McCabe explained.
"Management can bring in slick communications consultants," he said, noting that companies have far greater access to their workers than unions. "They have the edge."
In New York, UFCW Local 1500 has filed unfair labor practice charges against Target for threatening to fire a union supporter for talking in favor of the union while at work and for threatening to close the store if the union prevailed. Last week, the union began turning those same charges and others into formal objections in an appeal with the National Labor Relations Board to get a new election.
"This is only Round 1," Patrick Purcell, a spokesman for UFCW Local 1500, said after the union's defeat was announced.
The vote in Valley Stream was the first time in 14 years that Target faced a union election. Many experts said the stakes were high, even though the outcome affected only one store. A single victory could inspire a domino effect of union successes in retail; hence Target's aggressive effort to make sure the effort failed.
Target declined to make a representative available to discuss the election or the company's strategy. In a statement, Derek Jenkins, Target's senior vice president for stores in the Northeast, said, "It has always been our goal to have a culture where our team members don't want or need union representation. We believe that our team members' actions yesterday spoke louder than any words I can share with you now."
Still, Target and other major retailers may not be able to rest easy. With private sector unions representing only 7 percent of the workforce, unions are literally fighting for their lives, experts noted, so they are going to keep trying to organize within the retail industry.
"Target and other big-box retailers are not off the hook," said Patrick McHugh, a management professor at George Washington University. "On the one hand, it was a pretty convincing victory. But a significant number of workers voted for the union. There is lots of frustration by workers with employers."
U.F.C.W. is one of the dirtiest out there. One of their tactics is to send members into stores to load carts with perishable goods and then abandon the carts, causing the store to have to throw away those goods. Hard to prove when all the criminal has to say is, "I realized I didn't have my wallet with me and had to go home to get it".
I got a great name for a retail chain: Caldor
Even wiki is clear of any union reference.
It was the union that took that once great company down in 1999.
Either way it closes, it's just that in one situation your in control and can in many cases move it elsewhere and in the other you are bankrupt.
Meanwhile the Unions still rely on their old fashioned tactics ....... slashed tires ..... Broken windshields ...... beatings in the parking lot ....... Appearing at the front door early on a Sunday morning ..... cornering and threating the kids on their way home from school .... etc.
Of course it’s your choice but it sure would be sad to see something “HAPPEN” to you or your family should you vote wrong. /Sarc>
the article seems to be a bit of lobbying for the NLRB’s new “flash elections” proposal
Watch what the unions manage to get away with re: Boeing in South Carolina.
“I got a great name for a retail chain: Caldor”
I got one...Jamesway
Funny how that works. Bet they have more access because it's the company's property.
It's not just the retail industry. The unions are throwing everything they can right now at any employers they think may be vulnerable. And they are trying to hide the dismal results with the help of the NLRB.
After my wife's employer beat a union election with 76% of the vote, I checked on the NLRB website for the report. Well it seems that they are not reporting any election results until October. They say they are simplifying their reporting, but how hard can it be to summarize a couple hundred elections a month?
Where did you get that?
This editorial is from one of the most conservative newspapers in the country, I can assure you, they are not pro organized labor.
was Jamesway a union shop ?
Jamesway was not a union shop. Nor were Hills, Ames, Venture, nor most of the other extinct discounters.
The only one I can think of that was union was Fisher’s
Big Wheel out of Pennsylvania.
OK I got another great name too
Bradlees - Union Shop
Well, Bernie, that's one way of putting it. Some other people (me for one) would say everyone isn't completely ignorant, blind, and deaf, and as a result they can see UAW factories getting shuttered while foreign manufacturers not shotgun-wedded to a bunch of closeted Marxist lazyasses are opening butt-tons of plants to make automobiles in the South (and other places that don't worship at the altar of unionism). They're smart enough to extrapolate that the same result might happen to them, and they reason that as crappy as their job may be, it beats the hell out of sitting on their duffs unemployed because they listened to some shyster claim who told them to declare economic/political war on their paycheck-signers and there would be no consequences for doing so.
“On the one hand, it was a pretty convincing victory. But a significant number of workers voted for the union. There is lots of frustration by workers with employers.”
They need to find the 85 malcontents and persuade them to pursue other employment.
My wife has a cousin who works in this place (office) and according to her the word is if any Target stores vote to join a Union they will be shuttered by the Company as Walmart did in one of their Canadian stores some years ago.
Unions are finding new, more onerous ways to build up their membership. Obama's health care bill is full of "terms" that will boost union membership by requiring companies to hire only people who meet certain criteria. It creates new (unionized) entities that exist mainly to train union workers for health care service jobs. That way, the community organizers get paid for the training programs they run and the "graduates" go on to the unionized jobs created by the legislation.
I am not familiar with the story of Caldor. Your comment makes it pretty clear that union organizing made them go out of business. What is amazing is I can’t find anything about that online. My Google searches only result in whitewashed histories of the company and how evil Walmart caused its demise.
Target is not holding a gun to anyone's head forcing them to work there. These frustrated worked are FREE to take their talents elsewhere....