Dollar General, a retail giant that has spent thousands of dollars to hire anti-union consultants, may have managed to stop a tiny but possibly groundbreaking union movement at one its Connecticut stores.
A few workers from Barkhamsted participated in Friday’s election to decide if their shop would become the Only organized Dollar General LocationsIn the country. Two workers voted for joining United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371, and three workers opposed it.
Seven workers cast their ballots for the election. The union and the company each challenged one worker’s eligibility to vote. For the union to prevail, it would have to win all of these challenged ballots. It’s possible officials with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determine that one or both ballots should not be counted.
If the final count ends in a 3-3 tie, the union would still lose, since it needs to secure a majority of “yes” votes under NLRB rules.
Shellie Parsons was an assistant manager at Barkhamsted and helped to lead the union campaign. In an interview, Parsons said she was still waiting on the final, certified results from the board, which could take days or weeks, but she acknowledged the odds were not in the union’s favor after the initial tally.
“I had to do it for my daughter. She needs to see that I’m able to stand up, and that she can stand up, too,” Parsons told HuffPost. “She’s a little girl. She’s 8. I’m a single mother, and she looks up to me. She’s very proud of me for what I did. My daughter is everything.”
Dollar General said in a statement that it was “pleased” to see the preliminary vote count, though it noted the results were not official.
“We continue to believe a union is not in our employees’ best interests and that our employees benefit most from the open, direct communication we provide and from a work environment that is built on trust, respect and opportunity,” the company said.
Dollar General hired the “union avoidance” firm Labor Relations Institute (LRI) to try to persuade workers not to unionize, according to recent Disclosure filingsThe Labor Department. LRI agreed to pay LRI $2,700 per consultant for the duration of the project. Five different consultants were listed, and work started on September 25th.
“They would have a union-buster come in and have all of us sit down and listen to what they had to say. Then they would bring in another union-buster and do the same thing.”
Parsons stated that consultants visited the store daily, holding one-on-1 meetings, tagging along employees, and holding group sessions. These Times reported on the union campaign and the “captive audience” meetings earlier this month.
“They’d follow us around the store, chit-chat with us, telling us we could still lose our hours, still lose our jobs, and [the union] won’t help us,” Parsons said. “They would have a union-buster come in and have all of us sit down and listen to what they had to say. Then they would bring in another union-buster, a different one, and do the same thing.”
If workers form a union it is against the law to threaten them with losing their jobs. However, consultants and managers may be able to convey this point without violating legal limits. Jessica Petronella (Organizing Director for Local 371) stated that the union will file labor abuse charges against the company on the ground that employees were threatened by a closure of the store.
She stated that the dollars Dollar General spent to hire union-avoidance consultants could have been spent better on increasing wages.
“It’s not over. It’s going to be a legal battle,” Petronella said. “I feel bad for our supporters and the workers, because this will get tied up for weeks, and [Dollar General] is going to continue to make money.”
Parsons indicated that she thought the antiunion consulting work might be the key to the election.
“We had a lot of people [on our side] until they came in scaring everybody,” said Parsons, who will go back to work at the store on Saturday.
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