ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Two Twin Cities-area United Food and Commercial Workers Union locals have joined together to wage an informational campaign aimed at convincing employees at mass merchandisers to strive for better wages and benefits.
The union effort's most noticeable component is likely to be a $150,000 radio advertising campaign set to begin next month, when Target Corp., Minneapolis, is scheduled to open three SuperTarget stores in the Twin Cities area.
Bill Pearson, president, UFCW Local 789 here, told SN the informational campaign his local is conducting in conjunction with Local 653, Minneapolis, has a "multifaceted marketing strategy" that is "wholly different" from previous union attempts to organize the employees at mass merchandisers.
"We are going to talk directly to the workers," he said. "We are going to tell them, 'Retail workers are worth more."'
Pearson explained that the use of nonunion employees at Big Box stores "drives wages down" for unionized supermarket workers.
"The Twin Cities have been organized for 60 years," he said. "We have 20,000 union members working in grocery stores here."
Pearson said he had heard the recruiters from Target had gone to area supermarkets and said their company would pay annual salaries of $55,000 to supermarket department managers. At the same time, according to Pearson, Target employees in electronics and clothing departments are paid only $25,000 to $30,000 a year.
"If we drive up the average wage and never organize a single worker, I'll be happy," he said.
The organizing effort is already under way. Pearson said 25 union members have been entering area Target stores and handing employees cards that ask, "Are you being shortchanged?"
Target could not be reached for comment on this story.
However, at a press conference following last month's annual meeting, Robert J. Ulrich, Target chairman and chief executive officer, said unions are not needed at Target.
"We would hope the union would concentrate on situations where there may be a need for them rather than at Target where there certainly is not," he said.