NEW YORK (AP) — Workers at a Target store in New York voted against joining the country’s largest retail union Friday night, but the union said it would press on and broaden its push to represent the company’s workers nationwide.


The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 also said it would contest the results and ask the federal government to order a new election, alleging that Target illegally intimidated workers. Target denied the union’s allegations.


Both sides said the workers at Target’s Valley Stream store voted 137-85 against unionization. A “yes” vote would have made the store the first of the company’s 1,700 locations to bring in organized labor.


“Target did everything they could to deny these workers a chance at the American Dream,” said Bruce W. Both, president of United and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, in a statement. “However, the workers’ pursuit of a better life and the ability to house and feed their families is proving more powerful. These workers are not backing down from this fight. They are demanding another election.”


Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said the company acted legally.


“Target absolutely believes we have followed all the policies and procedures that are outlined by the National Labor Relations Board in a completely lawful manner,” Snyder said.


In response to the vote, the union planned to begin a campaign called “Target: Democracy” at the company’s other 26 stores in the New York area and will begin coordinating a nationwide campaign with other union locals in major U.S. cities.


“Today is merely the end of the first round of what will undoubtedly be a 12-round fight for fairness, democracy, justice and change for all Target workers,” Both said.


Since two-dozen workers from the Valley Stream store approached the union with their grievances regarding hours and pay in February, Target employees from around the country have been reaching out to the labor organization, according to Patrick Purcell, spokesman for the UFCW. The union consists of mostly grocery workers, but also represents employees at retailers that include clothier H&M.


The vote comes at a time when union membership in the retail industry has waned. In 1983, 1.2 million retail workers were union members. Today, that number is 703,000, with more than half of those workers in grocery stores, according to the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.


At the same time, the quality of retail jobs has fallen. The median hourly wage for retail salespeople has dropped 3 percent since 2006 after adjusting for inflation. And shrinking hours for many workers make it hard to earn a living wage or qualify for benefits.


“Workers are seeing their hours getting cut and their take-home pay, while basic costs for gas and food are soaring,” says Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group. “They’re increasingly frustrated.”


Workers at the store in Valley Stream are upset about hourly wage increases amounting to eight cents or less, says Patrick Purcell, the union spokesman. Some employees also say their hours have been cut from 30 per week to fewer than 10. Part-timers must bank at least 20 hours a week, on average, to qualify for benefits. A Target spokeswoman says hourly workers at the Valley Stream store average 24 hours a week.


Charmain Brown, who’s worked at Target for six years, supports the effort to organize. “I feel like if we get a union it would be better because we’d have a voice, somebody to stand up for us,” he says.


Betsy Wilson, a single mom of two who works about 21 hours a week at Target, disagrees. “What do I need a union to fight for me for?” she says.


Other retail workers also are putting up a fight. A new group called the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart, partly funded by the UFCW, coordinated a small protest at the company’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters Thursday. And a union representing 4,000 Macy’s workers in New York, including those at the flagship store, authorized a strike on Monday when the department store tried to get concessions on wages, benefits and hours. A tentative agreement was reached on Thursday.


“We haven’t seen such unrest in organized labor (in the retail sector) since the 1970s,” Flickinger says.


Much of that unrest has been focused on Target’s competitor, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Over the past decade, the UFCW has failed several times to unionize Wal-Mart stores. In 2004, the company shuttered a Canadian store after it became the first in North America to win union certification. In 2000, 11 workers in the meatpacking department at a store in Jacksonville, Tex., voted to join the UFCW. Soon after, Wal-Mart began stocking only pre-wrapped meats, effectively eliminating the positions.


Don Schroeder, a Mintz Levin labor attorney who has represented corporations in similar battles for 18 years, said Target has been successful at defeating union election petitions in the past, even in union strongholds like Detroit. Unions generally don’t file a petition unless they feel they have the vote firmed up, but with a high-profile company like Target, he says, labor may be willing to take a chance.


“They know if they win one, it could be a domino effect,” he says.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (13)
  1. Unions can't take a hint.... says:

    Why are the unions forcing themselves on people that don’t want them? They’ve rejected you. Take a hint.

    1. Mike says:

      Because this vote said, 38% of the workers supported having one. That alone sends a strong message to Target.

      1. Tracey says:

        %62 didn’t want it. That speaks even louder!

  2. PERFECT says:

    Good job, workers.

  3. Me says:

    The average union doesn’t care about their people, they just want their money so they can continue to exsist. The more minions the more money. Unions were useful in the past, but most are as corrupt and self serving as they claim corporations are. If they’re so great, why do people have to pay to be in them?

    1. Mike says:

      Why do you give money to go to church? Same difference moron.

      1. Paul Revere says:

        Hey I don’t go to church never would either and I would never join a union. Unions are a joke. Oh please tax me another way so I can be in your special club. Hey if I do not like a way a job is treating me or if I do not like the pay I will get another job instead of harassing people to join a union. Not that hard. But most liberals are lazy people who think everyone should cater to them. Oh by the way Mike 38% is nothing more than a strong message that more than 6 out of 10 people do not want a Union there.

      2. GS says:

        How can you say that? People aren’t forced to join a church by a vote. People aren’t compelled to give money to a church. People aren’t prevented from going to church when God doesn’t behave exactly the way you want. Moron.

  4. My Opinion says:

    I went to a trade school back in 86 and have worked in 2 non-union shops my entire career, 25 years. I am barely holding on to my house, my marriage has fallen apart, i took a $12.00 per hour pay cut between shops, i have to work 50+ hours to make ends meet. My union friends have always been secure, happy, and holding strong. If I could change 1 thing it would have been joining the Local right away. I didn’t because I worked for family. If you are a honest, hardworking, dependable worker, the union is your best friend. It’s too late for me but if you’re just starting out….join a union. I’m 46, have 0 pension, and live check to check to support my young son and I. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Some jobs don’t need to be unionized, some do. Check all your options.

  5. Mark says:

    When I took my first job with a union 40 years ago as a machinist, I made two dollars less then what workers are currently being paid today doing the same type of work. Don’t tell me unions are a bad deal………………

    1. Matt says:

      Mark, I am a machanist in a nonunion shop. I highly doubt 40 yrs ago you were making anywhere near what I am making today.

  6. tom says:

    way to go target, if the unions do get into a store just shut it down, we don;t need those socialist parasites

  7. NO to Unions says:

    Keep it open. Fire some employees. Lower wages for those who remain. Cut their benefits. Better yet, take them away. Teach them the concept that they should not consider themselves as bargaining units. Teach them that they need to think of themselves as value-added service providers… oh, my mistake. I thought this was about Minnesota State employees.

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