Target workers get new Union election, unlawful handbook must be revised

The National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) ordered a new Union election at a Target store in Valley Stream, NY, after finding that the store had violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by discouraging protected Union activity in its employee handbook.

Under the ruling, any Target location that used the handbook must now post a notice that its policies have been revised and provide workers with inserts detailing the new policies.  The Board ordered this expansive corrective remedy because a Target human resources official testified that the employee handbook was developed by corporate representatives, rather than store-level executives, admitting the handbook applied to “hundreds of thousands” of Target employees.

There will be a second Union election at the Valley Stream location because some of the prohibited handbook policies may have affected the organizing effort made by the United Food & Commercial Workers to unionize the store in 2011.

“[M]aintenance of unlawful rules is sufficient by itself to set aside the election,” the Board wrote.  In addition, the Board found that Target managers had engaged in coercive interrogations, threatened workers with reprisal and distributed leaflets that threatened to close the store if the workers voted to unionize.

The offending handbook policy said “[c]ertain activities are prohibited at all times on Target premises,” and it identified solicitation, distribution, selling and “conducting monetary transactions” as completely prohibited if the activities were conducted for “personal profit” or “commercial purposes.”  The Board said Target’s campaign before the election described Local 1500 as a “business” that “sells memberships” to employees.  Under the circumstances, the rule was unlawful because employees would reasonably construe it as precluding them from exercising their rights under the NLRA.  In other words, the policy could lead employees to believe the prohibition on “commercial” activity included solicitation and distribution by organizations such as unions.

The case is Target Corporation and United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1500, National Labor Relations Board, Nos. 29-CA-030804, 29-CA-030820, 29-CA-030880 and 29-RC-012058.

Please contact your labor law counsel regarding any further questions.

By Lisl Duncan

Legal Developments