While the push for a fairer workplace at Walmart is well known, that desire is shared by workers across the retail sector. Target, which is often championed as a responsible alternative, has become increasingly ‘Walmarty,’ keeping wages down and funneling more and more employees into part-time–only positions.
As detailed in today’s New York Times, frustrated Target employees in the New York City area are taking matters into their own hands and seeking to organize into a union. Tuned out by management, these workers know that it’s a through a union that they are assured a voice on the job and a say in their working standards.
And for many of the Target employees, work standards are at a breaking point. Limited by management to working one or two days a week, workers like Tashawna Green, a 21-year-old mother, are barely able to provide for their families. Making less than $200 dollars a week, Green lives with a relative and borrows money regularly to pay her bills.
Like Walmart, Target promotes itself as a place where workers are invested in the company’s success. Yet stories like Green’s give lie to this notion. Tashawna Green enjoys her job and has the drive to work more hours, yet like many of her coworkers, she’s kept in perpetual part-time limbo by design. Actually, that might be an understatement. At 10 hours a week, these employees are barely even part-time. This is a move straight out of Walmart’s playbook.
There is an alternative to Walmartization for the 13 million Americans who work in retail. As outlined in a recent report by American Rights at Work, when hourly workers have the protection of a union, they have the ability to build careers with family-supporting wages and stable and sufficient hours. Importantly, research indicates that there is ample room for wages to increase while keeping prices low. As highlighted in that study, unionized workers at Smithfield Foods in North Carolina now view their jobs as careers and believe they have a stake in the success of the company.
Sadly, like Walmart, Target is also attempting to scare its workers away from organizing a union. This is an opportunity for Target to re-establish itself as an alternative to Walmart. Target has long benefited from the perception that it is an ethical corporate actor. If Target’s workers are given a voice and a chance to truly provide for their families, the model company rhetoric that once surrounded Target might be justified.
Photo courtesy of Uil Seit/New York Times.