Workers at a Home Depot store in northeast Philadelphia say managers have been carrying out anti-union practices as the union elections, scheduled for November, approach.
In a complaint filed in mid-October with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Home Depot Workers United union spokesman Vincent Quiles said that managers have been “interrogating” and “monitoring” employees about their union activities since plans to form the union were announced. “They try very hard to play mind games with fear and propaganda”, Quiles, 27, said in statements published by Inquirer.
Anti-union persecution in Home Depot?
In September of this year, more than 100 workers of the Home Depot chain – which runs more than 2,300 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico – submitted a folder of signatures to the NLRB in search of representation for the formation of a labor union. The authorities scheduled the election to start on November 2, and they will start exercising their right at the Home Depot branch at 4640 Roosevelt Boulevard.
Allegedly, Quiles has not worked any shifts recently without store managers trying to eavesdrop on his conversations with other employees, something that would have happened to other associates. “Any time they have a group of us, literally any conversation that I have with people, there will be a manager there jumping in”, Quiles said. “And it’s just conversations, like, ‘How’s your family doing? How was that trip you took last weekend?’ Things you talk to coworkers about”, he added.
The company denies the allegations
Sara Gorman, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, denied that store bosses have been chasing or pressuring employees, and said the retailer would cooperate with the NLRB’s investigation. “We’re confident we haven’t committed the alleged violations”, Gorman said. “Our focus is on engaging with our associates and continuing to make Home Depot a great place to work”.
Quiles and other co-workers also denounced that “captive audience meetings” would be being held, in which bosses meet with small groups of employees during their work shifts, to dissuade them from voting in favor of creating the union, with ideas such as the price of union dues, or with promises to improve their working conditions without the need to install collective bargaining instances.
If the majority of workers vote in favor, the new union will be added to the growing number of labor organizations that have been forming in other large chains such as Starbucks and Amazon.
“Big corporations have really elaborate and sophisticated anti-union tactics”, said Paul Prescod, a Philadelphia labor rights advocate who ran unsuccessfully for the Pennsylvania state Senate this year. “Basically, they want to divide the workers with fear and divide them. This will become more intense”.
The NLRB is unlikely to issue a ruling on the complaint of alleged surveillance and harassment at Home Depot, at least not before the November election.