Target workers in New York want a union

The house that "flexible labor" built.

The house that "flexible labor" built.

Here at the center of the empire, the Target name is golden (if you ignore the whole gay thing). The hometown retail giant is one of the biggest employers in the metro, and the brand is synonymous with baseball, basketball, and generous local charitable giving.

But there's trouble brewing on the fringes: employees at 27 stores in the New York City area want to form a union. And if there's one thing that Target cannot abide, it is the threat of an an organized workforce.


Target has worked hard to keep workers from organizing -- employees are prohibited from discussing any kind of organization on the job, and hires are repeatedly subjected to some hilariously ham-fisted anti-union propaganda.

The employee handbook also makes the case against unions:

We believe in solving issues and concerns by working together with your help and input. Target wants to continue to create the kind of workplace where team members don't want or need union representation to solve issues. We don't believe a union or any third-party representative would improve anything for you, our guests or the company.

Unions, the corporation leadership argues, would hurt the company's competitive flexibility. But that competitive flexibility appears to translate to poverty wages for some of its employees. The New York Times talked to some pro-union employees who are currently on food stamps.

New York-based Gawker has also been tracking the union drive, and pulled together some accounts from current and former employees:

My first pay raise that didn't coincide with California minimimum wage laws was $.25, the year after it was $.11 and during my last year it was $.8. Yes, after working at Target for almost five years I was making just making 44 cents more than someone who had just been hired. I knew at this point that I had to quit.

Other commenters are more ambivalent about what a union would do for life inside the big-box behemoth:

Many, many of the workers I knew there were working it as their second or third job in order to make ends meet. Very few of them were able to maintain an independent lifestyle based solely on their Target salary. On the other hand, I never felt the pressing need for yet more regulations while working there.

Local Target employees, let's hear from you! Are Target's union-busting ways right and just? Reprehensible? All in the game? Post your thoughts in the comments.