Lowe’s faces organizing effort as US organizing movement spreads | american unions

Lowe’s, the US big-box home improvement chain, is facing an effort to form the company’s first US union in New Orleans, Louisiana, where 172 workers, under the banner of Lowe’s Workers United, recently filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Lowe’s operates or services approximately 2,000 stores in the United States and Canada with more than 300,000 full-time and part-time employees, and has vigorously opposed unionization efforts. The company hired union avoidance investigators, developed anti-union training videos for employees and lost a 2021 case at the NLRB over a company policy that prohibited employees from discussing wages.

Felix Allen, an organizing employee at the New Orleans store who has worked at Lowe’s for about two years, said the union talk started earlier this year with co-workers. They were galvanized by similar campaigns at Starbucks and Amazon, which came to symbolize a rejuvenated American labor movement.

Allen said grievances include heat stress, inability to take adequate water breaks, scheduling issues, late wages, as well as understaffing and aggressive customers as a result.

“We just felt we had to defend ourselves,” Allen said. “People who have been there for many years are still paid less than $15 an hour. Personally, I can drive three different types of forklifts and am paid less than $13 an hour and have trained incoming employees.

He compared that salary with Lowe’s earnings over the past two years and the CEO’s salary. Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison received $17.8 million in total compensation in fiscal year 2022, or 787 times the median employee salary for the same period. The company spent more than $13 billion on stock buybacks and $2 billion on shareholder dividends in 2021. He also claimed new hires received higher pay than employees with seniority in the job. many cases.

“They just treat us like commodities or robots. We’re just numbers to them,” Allen said. “We have had people who have been injured on the job and have not been treated fairly, they have gone through the ringer, and the same for people who have had to take leave or paternity leave or who need accommodation for health reasons.

Since the union election was filed, Allen said several managers from different stores have come to ask questions of workers and two union avoidance consultants have been walking around misrepresenting union dues.

A Lowe’s spokesperson said in an email, “Lowe’s is committed to a positive work environment and allows associates to communicate directly with management. We value this relationship and do not believe that unionization is in the best interests of our associates.

Lowe’s biggest competitor, Home Depot, is also facing a union election. If successful, it would create the home improvement retailer’s first unionized US store. The union election is scheduled for November 2, with the vote count due to take place a few days later.

The Home Depot has also historically opposed unions, with anti-union training videos and executives speaking out against legislation to make it easier to organize a union. In 2019, a group of Home Depot delivery drivers in San Diego, California successfully unionized with the Teamsters.

The petition for union elections, filed in Philadelphia, seeks to represent 274 Home Depot employees with Home Depot Workers United, in what would be an independent union similar to the Amazon Labor Union.

“There’s a lot we’ve been through in this store, but I’d say the biggest thing that got us to this point is that we felt a little forgotten,” said Home employee Vincent Quiles. Depot and the organizing union. “They called us essential workers and stuff like that, but when it came time to essentially treat us, it didn’t seem like it.”

He explained some of the pressing issues behind the organizing drive: insufficient staff, lagging wages and lack of investment and resources for workers compared to store sales and profits since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. .

Quiles claimed that Home Depot responded to the campaign with an influx of managers from different areas to try to discourage the organizing effort.

“At the end of the day, what we want to stay focused on is empowering people in this building and just encouraging people who might be watching what we’re doing here,” Quiles added.

A Home Depot spokesperson responded to the campaign in an email. “We look forward to discussing their concerns with our associates. Our Open Door Policy is designed to ensure that all associates can bring their concerns directly to management, and we have a history of working successfully with our associates to resolve them. Although we will of course follow the NLRB process, we do not believe that unionization is the best solution for our associates.

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