Target faces demand for new union election

Union organizers congregate nearby the Target store in

Union organizers congregate nearby the Target store in Valley Stream. Target employees are voting on whether or not to unionize. (June 17, 2011) (Credit: Photo by John Dunn)

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Hours after workers at a Valley Stream Target voted not to unionize, national retail union leaders Saturday demanded a new election.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 said last week's vote was tainted and there needs to be a new election.

"The workers and the union are demanding the federal government direct a new election and order Target to cease its illegal activity," the union said in a statement.

Target praised the vote result. "At Target, it has always been our goal to have a culture where our team members don't want or need union representation," said Derek Jenkins, senior vice president of stores in the Northeast region. "We believe that our team members' actions yesterday spoke louder than any words I can share with you now."

The union has vowed to press forward with the unfair labor practice complaint it filed earlier with the National Labor Relations Board. The complaint contends the store intimidated workers by prohibiting them from wearing union buttons and discussing the terms of their employment with each other or outside parties.

Target has also filed a complaint against union representatives, contending they made derogatory comments -- including racial and anti-gay slurs -- about store supervisors and anti-union workers.

The workers rejected unionizing by a vote of 137-85, which was announced at 12:30 a.m. Saturday. The union vote was the first for Target in two decades.

Target has 1,755 stores and none are unionized. There are 27 Target locations in New York.

"Target did everything they could to deny these workers a chance at the American dream," said UFCW Local 1500 president Bruce W. Both in a statement Saturday. "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."

On break at the store Saturday afternoon, Tashawna Green, a pro-union sales-floor worker, was disappointed.

Target managers provided videos and fliers urging employees to vote against unionizing, she said, but didn't allow the union to present its side. "How are you supposed to learn about the union without hearing from the union?" said Green, 21, a single mother.

Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said Saturday the company used videos to communicate with its employees before the union vote. She said the company was within the guidelines set forth by the national labor relations board.

"It was all based on fact and data," Snyder said.

Antonia Smaine, who has worked at Target for 11 years, said she voted "no" because workers in the retail industry have to accept seasonal fluctuations in hours.

"No matter what the union says," she said, "that isn't going to change."

With Ali Eaves

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