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Supply Chain News: Target Stores Facing Unionization Efforts on Two Fronts


 

Workers at Prototype New Jersey Flow Center Seeking to Organize – with Support of Local Mayor?

March 2, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff
     

Unionization rates across the US (and indeed most of the world) continue to fall, and are especially low in both distribution and in the so-called gig economy.

But there are some other signs that labor may be mounting at least a partial comeback, such as a new law in California (being challenged in the courts) that would almost completely eliminate the notion of contract jobs in the Golden state and forcing companies to hire them as actual employees. That includes independent truck drivers and Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as many other types of jobs.

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If successful, the unionization effort could set a national precedent for ecommerce warehouse workers.


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New Jersey is pursuing similar policies, and other blue states may follow.

The push for a $15 minimum wage also continues to gain some traction. And there has been a growing chorus of criticism of pay and working conditions at ecommerce companies, most prominently citing Amazon.

So what happens at Target stores, which is facing potentially a couple of union organization pushes in its supply chain, may prove consequential.

First, Target is facing an organization drive at its DC in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. And this is no ordinary DC– as SCDigest reported in May, 2018, the facility was created as a "flow center." That is a new DC concept that is part of Target’s plans to reduce the DC to store replenishment cycle from days to hours and reduce inventory at stores at the same time, especially at small-format stores in urban market. (See Target Testing Extreme New Lean-Oriented Store Replenishment Model with "Flow Centers").

Under the approach, Target replenishes stores more frequently with smaller quantities of items more precisely tied to what has sold, rather than shipping full cases of products as is usually done even for slow movers when they reach a replenishment point.

But now, a unionization drive at the 700,000 square foot facility could complicate execution of its strategy. And the DCs proximity to New York City and urban areas may create conditions for unionization not present for DCs in far out suburban or rural locations.

Efforts to organize about 500 workers at the Target site began last year and drew pushback from company management, which held meetings with employees "to urge them not to speak with us and to create a climate of fear around organizing," Megan Chambers, co-manager of the Laundry, Distribution and Food Service Joint Board, Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, told the Wall Street Journal.

In late February, former employees of the Perth Amboy DC held a press conference, providing details of their alleged mistreatment on the job.

They described what they called prison-like conditions, and offered support for a unionization campaign led by current employees at the DC.


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"They treat us like robots and we feel like prisoners. If an emergency happens or our kids get sick at school, we are isolated until the end of the shift, powerless to help our families. No one gets out or gets connected to the outside world until finishing their shift. At Perth Amboy’s Target, many workers feel like prisoners, isolated from the outside world and under the constant harassment regarding production quotas," said Ana Javier, who was an employee at DC in 2019.

The Journal reports that a Target spokeswoman said the company has "a long history of investing in our team and creating a safe work environment of mutual trust where our team members don’t want or need union representation. We’re aware that this group has been contacting Target team members in Perth Amboy, and we’ve consistently heard from our team that they’re not interested in being represented by this union."

This is the first Target warehouse in the United States to face a public union organizing campaign. If successful, the unionization effort could set a national precedent for ecommerce warehouse workers.

The workers seem to have the support of Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, who joined the news conference and said Target is not living up to a local Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) agreement in which the company is supposed to maintain harmonious labor relations and create good jobs for Perth Amboy residents.

Meanwhile, there is also labor activity at Shipt, an ecommerce delivery company that Target acquired for a huge price in late 2017.

A small number of workers there, are beginning to organize, demanding better wages and the elimination of what some describe as a culture of fear.

"We want to be the first responders," an anonymous Shipt "shopper" who is part of the unionization effort told the TechCrunch web site. "Whenever gig workers find out there is a pay cut or some type of issue, they’ll feel comfortable coming to us."

Some shoppers are saying that if they make a negative comments on pay or working conditions at Shift on social media sites they are often quickly "de-activated."

Today, Shipt has more than 100,000 gig workers, according to the company.


What do you think of the union efforts at Target? Will they have more far reaching consequences? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


Union efforts

Title, Target
Posted on: Mar, 03 2020
I think this story should be spread everywhere.  The Texas target DC has very similar conditions and they fight strong against unions.  But the mistreatment is very evident.  Maybe reporters could find a few people to interview there in Lindale Tyler TX to collaborate efforts . Power in numbers.  A chance to change something for the better.  
 
 

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