Norma Faith: No Union Now!

Today’s StarTribune reports that the United Food and Commerical Workers is targeting Target, in particular the new Super Target under construction in West St. Paul. The Super Target is going in on the site where a smaller Target stood – and where my oldest daughter, Faith, worked until the store closed to make way for the new building.

An international labor union that has launched organizing drives at Wal-Mart is now taking aim at Target Corp.

The United Food and Commercial Workers has been quietly laying the groundwork for a major organizing campaign at Target’s store in West St. Paul, which the union hopes will become the first of Target’s 1,330 stores to unionize.

Over the past five weeks, the union has distributed hundreds of leaflets to West St. Paul residents claiming that Target pays substandard wages and health benefits to its workers. And Monday, UFCW Local 789 in St. Paul issued a statement protesting the $731,000 in local tax breaks that Target received to redevelop the West St. Paul store.

The goal is to create a groundswell of opposition to Target before the West St. Paul store reopens this fall as a SuperTarget, said Bernie Hesse, a union organizer with Local 789 of St. Paul, which represents 7,500 workers in the Twin Cities area.

“We want to have people in those stores, organizing, on the day it opens and we want the [West St. Paul] community to support us,” he said.

Target spokeswoman Paula Thornton-Greear said that the company offers a wage and benefit package that is “among the best in the retail industry” and that workers don’t need a union. “We don’t believe that a union or any third-party representative would improve anything, not for our team members, guests or the company,” Thornton-Greear said.

Faith loved working there as a cashier and made a lot of friends among her co-workers, many of them teen-agers such as herself. From the stories she told around the dinner table it sounded like a place where they had a lot of laughs and she liked her supervisors. Whatever they put in the bug juice at the snack bar must have been effective because she now refuses to set foot in the new WalMart that opened just a couple of blocks away from the Target site.

Her starting pay for her first ever job: $7.25 an hour. (Well above the minimum wage, by the way, but that’s a post for another day).

No health benefits, but this wasn’t an issue since (as much as she may hate to admit it) she’s still a dependent and is covered under the benefits from my (non-union) job. She liked the flexibility of her part-time hours and says she thought the 401k plan was nice but not something she was interested in (her immediate goals were saving for her education expenses).

She was there to make some money, not to make a living, and I’d say she found her exploitation acceptable and a fair exchange that fit her current needs and interests – and probably those of many of her co-workers. Target understands this and offers whatever market-based wage and benefits package is required to attract employees. The key word there is “attract” employees, inferring that these workers are happy to accept the jobs rather than take them by force, which seems to be the attitude of the union.

You can use the link to read the entire story and see the adversarial approach the UFCW is already planning and its desires for “a groundswell of opposition to Target before the West St. Paul store reopens this fall.” Oh yeah, getting the local community upset with the store sounds like that’s good for jobs. And what do they think the community’s reaction will be if they have to pay higher prices out of the money left over from their paychecks when the politicians the unions support raise taxes? Did I mention there is a WalMart two blocks away?

Unlike my daughter, I’ve visited this huge WalMart several times and it usually seems to be full of shoppers unmortified by WalMart’s policies. I even have friends and neighbors working there, and they don’t appear as if they’ve been lobotomized. I think most folks around here can appreciate a fair wage and prices that make that wage go further, and aren’t looking for an international union interposing itself on local transactions.

Of course, that’s my long-winded analysis. When I asked Faith what her reaction to the thought of having “her” Target store unionized, I got one of those teen-aged snorts of angst and derision that I can’t even begin to spell for you.

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