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Could Black Friday rally pro-union retail workers?

Posted by: under Best Buy, Retail, Target Updated: November 16, 2011 - 11:10 AM

 

 

Target Corp. may boast a bulls eye as its corporate logo but the retailer has proven remarkably successful fending off attempts to unionize its workforce.

Earlier this year, workers in suburban New York City rejected an effort by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to organize a union. The vote was 137-85.

Labor experts say unions have traditionally struggled to organize retail workers because such employees tend to frequently change jobs. Companies like Wal-Mart and Target are also quite adept at countering union campaigns. But those same experts also think Target should not rest easy.

"Target and other big-box retailers are not off the hook," Patrick McHugh, a management professor at George Washington University, previously told the Star Tribune. "On the one hand, [the vote outside New York City] was a pretty convincing victory. But a significant number of workers voted for the union. There is lots of frustration by workers with employers."

In fact, the issues of low pay and limited work hours that sparked the Target union election may be getting worse, said John Budd, a University of Minnesota labor expert. "The fact that Target fought so aggressively gives hope to unions to build on this."

I was reminded of the Target vote when the retailer was one of several to decide to open at midnight Black Friday  or even on Thanksgiving Day.

Working crazy hours during the holiday shopping season comes with the territory and I'm sure many workers either don't mind or even appreciate earning holiday pay.

But there's also plenty of workers who are not particularly happy having to clock in 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Anthony Hardwick, a part-time worker for Target in Omaha, started a petition protesting Target's Black Friday midnight opening. The petition has attracted 75,000 signatures and counting.

Retailers like Best Buy are also hiring significantly less temporary holiday help, which means full time workers will have to pick up the slack.

Every year, retailers seem to push the envelope on holiday hours. Given retail's relatively low pay and high stress environment, one wonders at some point when enough workers respond positively to union overtures.

In other words, could Black Friday be the rallying point for the UFCW to finally succeed at Target and other retailers?

After all, the UFCW needs to win just one election for the flood gates to open.

 

 

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