Labor board to file complaint on Target

The labor board says Target violated federal laws

The labor board says Target violated federal laws by threatening to close the Valley Stream store, above, if workers joined a union during a vote in June. A spokeswoman says the company is committed to following work laws. (June 17, 2011) (Credit: John Dunn)

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The National Labor Relations Board will file a complaint against Target Corp. saying the company violated federal labor laws in the run-up to a June 17 unionization vote at its Valley Stream store unless the company agrees to settle the case, a government official said.

After an investigation by its Brooklyn office, the labor board said it found proof that Target broke laws in the National Labor Relations Act such as threatening to close the Valley Stream store if the workers voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and to "discharge" workers who discussed the union, said Al Blyer, regional director.

Target's Valley Stream workers voted against unionization.

"While we have not received anything official from the NLRB related to the union's allegations, I can tell you that Target is committed to following all state and federal laws," said Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder. "The company believes it has done so throughout this process."

Blyer said he had informed Target of his findings and he would file a complaint against the company this week unless it enters into a settlement agreement. If the company doesn't agree to a remedy, then the case is argued before an administrative law judge.

The union has other claims still under investigation, such as the firing of a worker in retaliation for her union-organizing activities. The union claims the election was unfair and seeks a new one.

"The government has verified what we said all along that Target, from the onset, has violated the National Labor Relations Act and federal law," said Pat Purcell, Local 1500 spokesman.

Of the 260 Target workers eligible to vote, 137 rejected the union and 85 supported joining Local 1500.

Among violations NLRB cited, the company gave workers the impression that they were monitoring their union activities and managers told workers they could not solicit other workers on behalf of the union on company premises, Blyer said. The law says workers can discuss union issues in nonwork areas and on their own time such as during lunch breaks, he said.

Target's written materials and handbook on its policies also contained violations that included unlawfully banning the distribution of literature on its premises, prohibiting employees from wearing union buttons or logos and forbidding off-duty workers to return to the premises to talk to workers about the union, Blyer said.

Target did file charges against the union, such as using abusive and threatening language against supervisors and employees, but the company has withdrawn them. The union interpreted that move as proof that those on the union side had acted professionally. The company, however, said that it withdrew its claims against the union following its Valley Stream team's desires "to put the election in the past and move towards a positive future," Snyder said.

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