When patrons visit targetchangeny.com, the first thing they see is an embedded YouTube video (video attached to this story).
The video is set on a red, white and black background similar to Target’s corporate colors and it begins like any other advertisement for the store-that is, until you start reading the text. “Do You Love Target?” reads the first sentence. “Do You Love Low Wages? Do You Love Disrespect? Do You Love Discrimination? Expects More. Pays Less.”
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1500 is organizing its first union campaign in a Target store, and its goal is to sign up 5,000 employees in New York City. Target has been resistant to unionization efforts and has been passing out anti-union fliers around New York. The word is out that there have been threats against those attempting to organize, particularly in the Long Island neighborhood of Valley Stream.
In an emailed statement, a Target representative claimed there was no need for a union. He said, “Our emphasis is on creating a workplace environment where our team members don’t want or need union representation.
Target works to create an environment of mutual trust between Target and our team members, an environment that promotes listening, responding to concerns of team members and always giving honest feedback. Target believes in solving issues and concerns by working together with the help and input of all team members.”
The retail giant has also hired the law firm Jackson Lewis LLP, to play a major role in its anti-union campaign. Jackson Lewis published a book in 1997 entitled, “Winning NLRB Elections: Avoiding Unionization Through Preventative Employee Relations Programs,” a 253-page volume that details how to “maintain a union-free workplace.”
The statement from Target continued, “We annually conduct research to see how all elements of our pay and benefits program compare based on industry, location and size, and we place a priority on ensuring that our compensation and benefits align with or exceed the retail and other service industry companies in that specific market.”
With corporate anti-union sentiment growing in many parts of the country, organizing a labor union could be considered a particularly difficult undertaking. However, that hasn’t stopped Target Change and its advocates from letting their voices be heard. According to the campaign’s website, the abovementioned ad was supposed to play on a video screen in Times Square but was banned by CBS.
UFCW Local 1500 explained the incident in detail on its blog. “The rejection of the advertisement is especially questionable since it was a representative of CBS who initially contacted the union and suggested using the CBS ‘Super Screen’ located in Times Square,” read the blog post.
“The aisles at Target and the halls of CBS both stink tonight with the smell of censorship,” said UFCW Local 1500 Spokesperson Pat Purcell. “This action by CBS indirectly produces the same result that Target stores directly seek as workers from around the New York area mobilize for change: [to] silence the workers’ voice.”
While much of the local and national reporting on this story has focused on the Tri-State area, the “Target Change” movement is getting support from around the country.
“I worked at a [Target in] D.C.,” said Mark Joseph Peek of Albany, N.Y., on the campaign’s Facebook page. “And when I even just slightly mentioned the word union, I was put on corrective action for ‘inciting dissent.’”
Dawn O’Neil Camilleri is rallying behind the “Target Change” movement as well. “Don’t give up the fight!” he posted on Facebook. “[I’ve been] a Local 1500 worker for 20-plus years. Without them, my job would probably pay $10 an hour. Instead, I make a living that supports a family and pays the mortgage.”