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Latest News - January 2012

January 3, 2012
Local Target store faces more labor charges
Source: Source: Crain’s New York
By: Daniel Massey

The National Labor Relations Board has added to charges that the retail giant improperly tilted the playing field before a unionization vote failed at its Valley Stream, L.I., location.

The National Labor Relations Board has added to charges that retail giant Target violated the law in the run-up to a failed unionization vote at its Valley Stream, L.I., location last year, alleging that supervisors interrogated workers about their support for the campaign and threatened to close the store if the union came in and organized a strike.

Other new unfair-labor-practice charges pertain to an employee handbook that was revised in 2009 and contains policies prohibiting employees from sharing confidential company information with each other. The confidentiality policy, which comes with penalty of termination or prosecution, could prevent workers from discussing their salaries with each other, making organizing more challenging.

The new charges are part of a consolidated complaint that was issued Friday, which also includes previous allegations against Target in connection with its supervisors' conduct in the period before the election last June. All of the charges will be heard at a hearing before an administrative law judge Feb. 1, unless a settlement is reached beforehand.

A Target spokeswoman said the retailer did not break any laws. “We believe this was a fair process resulting in a fair election in which our team members rejected unionization,” the spokeswoman said. “We continue to believe these allegations are without merit and will present the facts during the hearing process.”

The Valley Stream store would have been the first Target in the country to unionize. A union official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The most serious of the new charges alleges that a Target senior vice president threatened employees two days before the election that if they chose the union and there was a strike, the store would close.

Workers handily rejected unionization last June with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, but the union immediately filed an objection to the election, alleging the employer's conduct made a fair vote impossible.

Al DeMaria, an attorney who advises companies on how to remain union-free, said he was “underwhelmed” by the charges in the complaint. But he said that some were likely to stick and that the labor board could decide to overturn the election.

“You're going to have a battle of law on each side,” he said. “A, what was really said, and then B, if you can agree on what was said, was it a violation of labor law?”

Mr. DeMaria said even if the vote is overturned a new election ordered, it's unlikely the union would win. Second elections almost always end up with the same result as the first, he said.

The NLRB is expected to issue a report on the union's objection to the election in the next week or two, said Al Blyer, who retired Friday as board's regional director. Once that happens, the objections are likely to be combined with the unfair labor practices for a hearing before the judge, Mr. Blyer said.



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