Last week, employees of Target Corporate learned most of them would not be returning to in-office work in downtown Minneapolis until June 2021.
As the Star Tribune reported, an email to employees at Target's headquarters said the company was not merely acting to protect its people from the coronavirus, but "taking this time to reimagine the future role of the office and where and how work gets done.”
With 8,500-some workers, Target Corp. is the largest single employer in downtown Minneapolis. Those who can work remotely will continue to, well into 2021, with a "hybrid model" that would "blend the best of both work environments" pursued thereafter.
Target employs another set of people just a few feet down Nicollet Mall, at its flagship store, which remains open. Sam McChesney has been on the overnight team since summer 2019.
And he doesn’t mince words about how it’s been going lately. The following are some samplings from his Twitter feed.
Target 1375 (nicollet mall, flagship) overnight is a COVID disaster... everyone scheduled takes breaks at the same time, in the same enclosed room, all eating, without masks. Once one person gets it, this whole team will get it.— samuel mcchesney (@samuelmcchesney) October 5, 2020
I’m working at Target 1375 after a full week off (I just... didn’t show up) and people are still not wearing masks and I literally want to leave right now. I don’t know what to do because I can’t afford to leave but I also can’t afford to die ������������������������— samuel mcchesney (@samuelmcchesney) October 13, 2020
I seriously feel like an absolute clown for thinking not wearing a mask indoors is not okay. Why can’t this be enforced? Am I just a fucking nut job that actually wears their mask all 10 hours of a shift?— samuel mcchesney (@samuelmcchesney) October 13, 2020
In short, McChesney's freaked out about COVID-19 exposure, and he’s “fucking done with Target.” He feels as though his health is being held hostage by capitalism, and that management isn’t doing much to keep him or his fellow overnighters safe.
“It’s easy to be relaxed on regulations when the public isn’t there to see it,” McChesney wrote in a statement to City Pages. “I formally complained a few months back to our HR, store leader, and leader of the overnight department and OSHA when Minneapolis had a mask mandate for a month and a half while Target was not enforcing the law.”
These days, he says, he sees a lot of team members who don’t have a mask, or leave theirs hanging off their ears or chins. Even management. That’s to say nothing of the vendors that bring their stock to the store overnight.
McChesney also says that after seeing guests allowed to walk around unmasked in August, he simply walked off the job for a week, demanding his store shape up. He hasn’t been in the store during business hours since then.
“Management that I talk to agrees when I bring up concerns, and is always sympathetic, but it’s not actionable,” he said.
A Target spokesperson sent a statement saying health and safety has been the company’s “top priority.” That includes providing team members with masks, gloves, and thermometers; “rigorous” cleaning routines; and installing partitions in stores. Guests have been required to wear masks since August 1, and mealtimes and breaks have been staggered to minimize contact.
Stores are also “regularly monitored” for compliance.
“We’re aware and looked into the concerns at our downtown Minneapolis store,” the statement said. “Leaders visited the store this weekend, confirmed all team members were following our safety measures, moved breakroom tables further apart to improve social distancing, and reiterated the importance of our safety routines with the team.”
McChesney says he’s happy to hear someone checked in on the store, but that they weren’t around at night, when he’s seeing most of the stuff he’s been pointing out.
“I think that’s why it’s an issue,” he said. “The same issues continue to happen.”
According to Target, the Nicollet Mall store has experienced “multiple team member positive cases” of COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, and that after each discovery, the store has been sanitized and the affected parties quarantined.