Target Workers on Long Island Reject Union Representation (1)

Sept. 9, 2018, 12:14 AMUpdated: Sept. 9, 2018, 2:34 AM

Workers at a Target in Huntington Station, N.Y., rejected union representation in voting that concluded Sept. 8, a company spokesperson told Bloomberg Law.

Had the bid for representation by the United Food and Commercial Workers been successful, the employees would have created Target’s first unionized store.

About 200 workers were eligible to participate in the balloting. The vote against joining was 118-39, a Target spokesperson told Bloomberg Law Sept. 8. The National Labor Relations Board must certify the election results.

“Today’s outcome confirms Target’s longstanding belief that a culture of mutual respect, in which we listen to our team and resolve issues directly, will always be better for our team members than relying on a union intermediary. We deeply value our store team in Huntington Station and want to thank them for their confidence in Target,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Representatives from Local 1500 of the UFCW did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Latest Defeat for Union Organizers

The union’s defeat makes it less likely the UFCW will continue unionization efforts at Target and similar retailers, according to University of California Los Angeles professor Chris Tilly, who specializes in labor markets and public policy.

At the very least, a defeat sends a message to unions that they should have a high level of confidence that retail workers are interested before petitioning for a union recognition vote, he said. Tilly spoke to Bloomberg Law Sept. 6, before the voting at Target commenced.

The vote is the second rejection of a union in recent years by Target workers in the Empire State.

A 2011 attempt to unionize a Target in Valley Stream, N.Y., failed after multiple votes.

Eleven Target pharmacy workers in Brooklyn voted to join the UFCW in 2015 as the company was in talks to sell that part of its business to CVS. Target wanted the NLRB to block the vote because of the pending sale, but that request was denied. The purchase was finalized about a month later, and those workers became CVS employees.

Labor Board Involvement So Far

Target filed an objection with a regional director of the NLRB after the Huntington Station workers petitioned for a vote.

One point of contention in the case involved a store supervisor who approached workers about signing authorization cards, a preliminary step in union organizing. Target asserted that this “tainted” unionization efforts by suggesting to employees the company supported union representation.

Acting Regional Director Teresa Poor ruled Aug. 24 that organizing efforts could continue but the employer could revisit the issue in post-election proceedings.

With balloting results in, the union now has seven days to appeal the Sept. 8 results to the board.

Lack of Interest or Something Else?

Retail workers attempting to organize face an uphill battle, Tilly said.

“In my view, the playing field is not very level between employers and unions,” he told Bloomberg Law.

The rejection of a union can indicate workers’ trepidation rather than a lack of interest in collective bargaining, Thomas Kochan, co-director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research, said.

“It’s hard to say whether it reflects the real preferences of the workforce or whether it reflects their fear of retaliation or frustrations with the process,” Kochan told Bloomberg Law Sept. 6.

Employers use a variety of tactics to hinder unionization, Tilly said. The measures may include supervisors having one-on-one conversations with workers, having team meetings that discourage union votes, and even disciplining or firing workers who support a union. Some of those actions are illegal, but employers may view the punishment as less costly than having to bargain with a union, he said.

Retail’s high turnover rate also makes union efforts difficult, Kochan said. Employees in short-term jobs are not incentivized to take on the complicated task of organizing, he said.

About 1.6 percent of retail salespeople were union members in 2017, according to U.S. Census data analyzed by Bloomberg Law. Overall, unionization in the retail sector ranked 12th out of 20 major industry categories used by the Census.

(Updated throughout with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Wallender in Washington at awallender@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com

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