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Virginia Target Workers Are Organizing The Company’s First Union

Inside the union drive at the notoriously anti-union retail giant.

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Video produced and edited by Paula Pecorella and Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen

Target workers in Virginia are organizing to form the company’s first union amidst an anti-union onslaught. Workers are outraged that while Target made record profits during the pandemic, longtime employees received $0.08-$0.30 raises and are now paid less than new hires. We spoke to the Target workers organizing the union drive. Below is a full transcript of the video.

Adam Ryan: We hear a lot of the times from management in the company, how we’re valued. If you look at Target press releases they’ll constantly talk about how they care about workers’ well-being. It’s really just smoke and mirrors for good PR.

Sharon Keel: Employees like myself are the only reason they can open their doors.

Adam: Without us, this company would have no profits whatsoever. [Target CEO] Cornell wouldn’t make, you know, 800 ‘some times more than what we make as workers. 

Sharon: With the risk involved ‘cause of the pandemic, we should have been compensated much more. Appreciate everyone who makes it possible for you to open the doors. And it hasn’t happened yet since I’ve been there, so…

Donna Phillips: Up until recently, I liked Target. Pver the last, probably three years, it’s changed a lot. 

Sharon: We’ve had a lot of cases in the store, I’ve been on edge pretty much the whole time. 

Adam: I never got any kind of a paid break or anything during the entire pandemic. Our pay didn’t keep pace with rising costs of living.

Sharon: I got, I think 32 cents. This to me is laughable.

Donna: For people who have been there 5,10, 20 years; people were being hired off the street making more than them. 

Sharon Keel: That is definitely not okay. I’m glad they are getting it as a new hire, but I should be bumped up substantially.

Adam: Folks decided that they needed to get a petition together to demand seniority pay. 

Donna: If you had been there for five years, the proposal was to raise it to $18. If you’ve been there for 20 years or more, to raise it to $20. 

Adam: Even people who wouldn’t qualify were signing on and supported the demand and felt it was unfair that this already didn’t exist in the first place.

Donna: So we wanted to go through the process that Target’s laid out, that they have told us a million times. “You don’t need to organize. All you need to do is follow this open-door policy we have.” And every one of us really insisted that we go that route first and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Adam: We just got a non-answer from corporate HR. 

Donna: We weren’t even worthy of an acknowledgment. Anything would have been something. But they did nothing.

Adam: I think it just made people angry, you know, that they could just be so easily dismissed. 

Donna: It made me feel like not working there anymore. So that’s what I did. I left Target.

Sharon: I can’t really quit my job. And I think, you know, they’re using that as an excuse not to to address it, you know, knowing people are desperate for their jobs.

Adam: If we want to keep our jobs and we want to stay at target, we have to demand more because they’re not going to voluntarily give it to us.

Some of the cards that we issued were not accurate with the roster that was provided to them by Target corporation. And that actually the hundred employees that we thought were at our store, there’s actually more than that. I think that’s largely ‘cause Target is trying to just make it harder for us in this process to hold an election. They’re counting workers who aren’t even on the schedule, who aren’t there, who aren’t working right now, people who are what they call “on demand.” 

Sharon: The first day I was hired at target and had orientation, they showed me an anti union video.

[Anti-union video]: Welcome to Target, where we know you’ll have a terrific experience. 

[Anti-union video]: Team members have the right to join unions. But they also have a right not to join a union. 

[Anti-union video]: Refuse to sign, and keep target union free…

Sharon: It made me lose respect for the company immediately.

Adam: I think fear is the ultimate factor that keeps people from standing up and demanding more. 

Ever since we filed for the election, Target has flown in all these managers, people I’ve never seen before, and they’re just all hovering over us as we’re trying to do our jobs. 

Some workers were even telling me how managers were following them into the bathrooms when they’re just trying to get a break. Managers have lists of the employees and they’re checking off every single worker that they’ve been talking to.

Sharon: Being elderly, I sat amongst all these young people starting their first job, not knowing how to feel about it. And I just pretty much whispered at anyone I could find, you know, this is not okay. Don’t, you know, go along with anti-union.

Adam: These are your rights, know them, exercise them. The power’s in the hands of the workers. it’s just a matter of us believing that and understanding that.

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