For several years, the UFCW union, the nation’s fifth largest labor organization and certainly one of the most active when it comes to organizing, has sought to organize Wal-Mart employees in a number of different states. In spite of this all-out effort, highlighted on the UFCW website as “Making Change at Wal-Mart”, the union has met with almost no success. As of today, not one of Wal-Mart’s 2 million employees is represented by the union.
Now, the UFCW seems to be turning its attention to another non-union retail powerhouse: Minneapolis-based Target Corporation. With 350,000 employees in the U.S., Target does not represent quite as large a prize as Wal-Mart, but the union would love to represent even a small percentage of their workers. The union has filed a petition for an election at a Target store in Valley Stream, New York, claiming to possess signed union authorization cards from over half the employees in that store. According to reports, the union is focusing on 27 additional stores in that portion of Long Island, and hopes to bring a large number of their employees into the fold. Target has publically announced its opposition to the union, noting that its employees are well-treated and do not need union representation.
Only time will tell if the UFCW is successful in organizing any Target workers, but the shift in focus from Wal-Mart to Target is interesting. It could be that the union simply found a willing group of Target employees in Long Island and is happy to capitalize on that opportunity. It may also mean the UFCW is hoping that Target’s corporate culture and self-portrayal as more chic and with-it than Wal-Mart, along with their desire to be a giving and responsible corporate citizen, will smooth the road to union organizing. While the UFCW would doubtless like to represent employees at both companies, Target may represent an easier, um . . . objective, at this time.
The retail industry represents one of the largest and fastest growing segments of the U.S. workforce. Today unions represent only about 5% of retail workers. The ability of the UFCW and other unions to organize employees at Wal-Mart, Target and other national retail chains is a critical element of labor’s efforts to remain vital in the private sector. Stay tuned as we watch this struggle play out at a retail store near you!