Home Depot workers in Philadelphia rejected the first storewide union at the world’s largest home improvement retailer on Saturday night, a loss to a nascent movement to organize at major American corporations.
Workers voted 165 to 51 against forming a union representing the store’s 274 employees, WHYY-FM reported.
The National Labor Relations Board oversaw the vote. A board spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for information about the vote from The Associated Press.
The defeat of organizers, who sought to join Home Depot Workers United, could discourage militant workers who managed to form the first unions at major chains, including Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s and Apple, but who have since suffered setbacks in the collective bargaining. the field or organize more unions.
The Atlanta-based company employs approximately 500,000 people at its 2,316 stores in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Vincent Quiles, the Home Depot employee leading the organizing effort, told WHYY that the attempt to organize workers was a “big order.”
“I knew when I filed this petition we would take a $300 billion company,” Quiles said after the vote. “It wouldn’t be an easy fight to fight. But you do these things because you think they’re right.
Quiles has previously said that worker dissatisfaction with working conditions, understaffing and lack of training are among the grievances that have spurred the organizing effort. He also said workers are upset they haven’t shared more of the record profits Home Depot has made during the coronavirus pandemic.
Home Depot strongly opposes unionization, saying it has an open-door policy allowing employees to bring their concerns directly to managers.
After the failed union vote, Home Depot spokeswoman Margaret Smith told WHYY, “We are pleased that associates at this store have voted to continue working directly with the company. This connection is important to our culture, and we will continue to listen to our associates and make The Home Depot a great place to work and grow.
Quiles filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the NRLB, alleging managers engaged in improper surveillance and interrogation tactics against union supporters. Quiles said officials followed him around stores and tried to disrupt any conversations he tried to have with co-workers, even if it wasn’t about the union.
Instead, Quiles said he relied on TikTok videos, group text messaging and emails to campaign for the union. Although more than 100 workers signed the petition calling for the election, Quiles said he was never able to persuade co-workers to join him in speaking out publicly.
The Home Depot is cooperating with the investigation of the complaint and “is satisfied that we did not commit the alleged violations,” company spokeswoman Sara Gorman said.
Fierce legal battles have characterized organizing efforts at other companies.
Amazon filed more than two dozen objections in an effort to overturn the Amazon Labor Union’s surprise election victory at a Staten Island warehouse last spring, the group’s only successful attempt to date to form a union. The ALU, meanwhile, has filed more than two dozen charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Amazon of unfair labor practices that have harmed its ability to organize.
Starbucks is negotiating contracts at a handful of the more than 250 stores where workers voted to unionize, but the company has asked the NLRB to temporarily suspend further elections over alleged misconduct.
The Labor Relations Board has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle alleging the restaurant chain unlawfully closed a store in Augusta, Maine, and fired its workers for union activity.