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Workers at LI Target could become first in chain to unionize

About 200 employees are voting on whether to join Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Average hourly earnings for 13.4 million nonsupervisory retail

Average hourly earnings for 13.4 million nonsupervisory retail workers surged 5.1 percent last year for the biggest advance since 1981, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Employees at a Target in Huntington Station could vote this weekend for the store to become the only location in the chain to unionize.

In voting Friday and Saturday, about 200 employees are casting ballots on whether they want to be represented by Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

The workers want better wages, improved and affordable retirement and health care benefits, and more-defined work schedules, said Aly Waddy, assistant to the secretary-treasurer and a vice president of the Westbury-based union local.

“They are not asking for anything that is above and beyond anything that a full-time worker would expect from their job,” she said.

On Aug. 24, the National Labor Relations Board approved the scheduling of an election at the Jericho Turnpike store. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. objected, saying the process was “tainted” because a Target supervisor allegedly solicited employees to sign authorization cards showing support for an election, according to the NLRB decision. 

The NLRB, however, ruled the election could proceed. Voting ends at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Waddy said.

The NLRB will certify the results; either party may object within seven days.

The Target workers sought assistance from the union because they were dissatisfied with workplace conditions, Local 1500 president Tony Speelman said. “They called us. This is not a case when we sent union organizers … that’s how angry they were,” he said.

In a statement, Target said it listens to employee feedback through the programs it has available.

“We do not believe a union intermediary would improve that process in any way, and we are committed to continuing to listen to and support all of our team members, who come together every day to proudly serve our guests,” the company said.

Target offers competitive wages and has “historically taken a market-by-market approach to evaluating and adjusting wages” that exceed the federal minimum wage, spokeswoman Jenna Reck said.

Target increased its minimum hourly wage to $11 last fall and to $12 this spring for existing employees, she said. The state-mandated minimum wage is $11 an hour on Long Island.

Target offers health-care benefits, paid parental leave and paid short-term disability to employees who qualify, Reck said.

The retailer employs about 350,000 people and has 1,839 stores.

The Huntington Station store is not the first on Long Island to consider unionizing.

A vote failed at the Valley Stream store in June 2011, but a federal administrative law judge for the NLRB ruled in May 2012 that another vote must take place because Target had violated labor laws and retaliated against workers. In April 2012 Target closed the store for a six-month remodeling project, which it said had been planned for two years.

Another vote was scheduled for November 2012 but was canceled after not enough employee support was shown for an election, Waddy said.  

Target, Walmart and other discount retailers have historically resisted efforts by their employees to unionize, though campaigns by labor advocacy groups in recent years have prompted some to increase pay and benefits.

Of the 15.5 million employees in the retail trade in 2017, 4.5 percent were members of unions, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 137.9 million employees in all industries last year, 10.7 percent were members of unions.

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