Employees at Target Corp.’s Valley Stream, N.Y., store on Friday voted to reject the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union by a margin of 137 to 85, the Minneapolis-based retailer said.

This story first appeared in the June 20, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The results of Friday’s union election loss are being contested by the UFCW Local 1500,” said Bruce W. Both, Local 1500’s president, adding that the union plans to begin a campaign, “Target: Democracy,” at the 26 other New York metro-area Targets.

The vote was closely watched by retail and labor experts because it was Target’s first union election in 14 years. Regardless of its outcome, it is predicted to have far-reaching implications. A union victory could embolden workers at other big-box chains, retail experts said. According to the UFCW, publicity surrounding the Valley Stream Target sparked interest from workers at other area stores. Local 1500 represents 23,000 retail food workers in the New York metro area.

Target has been under more scrutiny lately. For years, the retailer enjoyed relatively little attention on the labor front, while competitor Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has come under attack from unions, activists and politicians.

The main issues for Target workers were low wages and the limited number of hours they were assigned to work. During the campaign, the union alleged that Target threatened and intimidated workers, alluding to the possibility that the store would close if the outcome of the vote was in favor of the union. Meanwhile, Target contended that union organizers used racist and anti-gay slurs and threatened workers in their homes. Both sides have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

“Our emphasis is on creating a workplace environment where our team members don’t want or need union representation,” a Target spokeswoman said. “Target works to create an environment of mutual trust between Target and our team members, an environment that promotes listening, responding to concerns of team members and always giving honest feedback. Target believes in solving issues and concerns by working together with the help and input of all team members.”

Target regularly reaches out to employees at all of its stores nationwide, the spokeswoman said, adding, “Team members have recently visited and met with team leaders and members at the other 26 Target stores in the area and are not aware of any active issues or efforts.”

Target delivered its anti-union message through a variety of mediums, including a dedicated anti-union Web site.

Both sides have seven days to challenge the vote with the NRLB.

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