Home Depot managers walk into a Philadelphia store and plan to unionize

In normal times, it can be difficult for Vince Quiles to find a manager at the Home Depot where he works in northeast Philadelphia. But that hasn’t been a problem since Quiles went public with his efforts to unionize the store last week.

Employees were called into meetings with supervisors and taken to lunch like never before, Quiles said.

“I’ve worked here for five and a half years, and I’ve never seen this in my life,” said the 27-year-old, who on Monday filed a petition for union elections with the National Labor Relations Council. work. The petition is being reviewed by council.

If workers at the Quiles store voted union, it would be the first US Home Depot store to organize. To prevent that from happening, the home improvement chain appears to be relying on a stalwart tactic for employers: saturating the workplace with managers near and far to discourage workers from unionizing.

Starbucks has used the same strategy in its battle against Starbucks Workers United, sending managers to stores where workers plan to form a union and holding individual or group meetings with them to weaken union support. More than 230 Starbucks stores have unionized since December.

“Before that, I didn’t even know what my district manager looked like.”

– A Home Depot worker in northeast Philadelphia

Quiles said he has received unusual attention from management in recent days, making it more difficult to discuss a union’s perspective with his colleagues.

“Tthey follow me all over the store,” he said. “Every time I step on the floor, I have a loss prevention manager or someone following me around.”

He added, “I think it’s very sad that Home Depot doesn’t make an affirmative case for itself.”

Asked about the influx of managers to Philadelphia, a Home Depot spokesperson said in an email that the company “doesn’t believe unionization is the best solution for our associates.”

“We look forward to continuing to speak with our associates about their concerns,” the spokesperson said. “Our open door policy is designed to ensure all associates can raise concerns directly with management, and we have a history of working successfully with our associates to resolve issues.

Quiles said he started the union effort because his co-workers felt underpaid and undervalued for the work they were doing, especially during the home improvement boom during the coronavirus pandemic. coronavirus. He said a union could force the company to address workers’ concerns and believes management’s response has already shown the value of the effort.

Workers at a Home Depot in northeast Philadelphia have seen many new faces among management over the past week.

Another store worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the “flood” of managers went far beyond any normal “open door” policy. The worker estimated that eight managers – some from other stores, some who appeared to be from head office – had approached them in recent days to talk about the job and how the store could be improved.

“Before that, I didn’t even know what my district manager looked like,” the employee said. “Seeing all these people, I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’ I was so confused.

The worker said it was funny to see a sudden concern about how the store was running.

“We all told HR – we emailed them this and that, and they barely implemented things,” the worker said. “But once [there’s talk of a union]they want to stick together and help us, and start doing stuff for us.

HuffPost Readers: Do you work at Home Depot and have any thoughts on unionizing? Email our reporter about it. You can remain anonymous.

A manager explained how to revoke a union authorization signature, which organizers are rounding up in order to secure a scheduled election with the labor board, the worker said.

Workers must obtain the signatures of 30% of the proposed bargaining unit for a vote to be scheduled. Quiles said he secured the signatures of 103 of the store’s 276 workers, or about 37% of the workforce. Unions don’t typically run for office until a strong majority is in place, but some recent successful organizing efforts — including the Amazon Labor Union’s upset victory at a New York warehouse earlier this year – began with a petition from a minority of workers. .

“I’ve worked here for five and a half years, and I’ve never seen this in my life.”

– Vince Quiles, Home Depot employee

Quiles said he and his pro-union colleagues chose the name Home Depot Workers United for the future union. The group is not affiliated with an established trade union. A labor attorney has advised Quiles on filing the petition and will train workers on how to spot unfair labor practices or labor law violations, according to Quiles.

A union election victory would put Home Depot in a league with other large US employers that are no longer unionized, such as Amazon, Starbucks, REI, Apple and Trader Joe’s. Home Depot says it has about 2,300 stores in North America.

Although the Teamsters represent some Home Depot drivers in California, the chain currently has no unions at its US outlets. For years, the company has required workers to watch union-busting videos as part of their job training, teaching them the supposed pitfalls of unionization.

According to Quiles, management this week began holding group meetings for workers in a training room in the store. It is common for employers to hold such confabs during an organizing effort, with managers or outside consultants delivering talks aimed at undermining union support. Home Depot declined to discuss whether such meetings were taking place.

Quiles said he personally did not attend any of the meetings. He said he suspected he was not invited because he was the one who filed the election petition with the labor board.

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