On Monday, April 15th, Target workers at store 1541 located in Pikesville, Maryland launched a strike to demand Target Corporation fire their abusive store team lead (store manager) Kate Harley. Harley’s abuse entailed creating a hostile work environment where workers were afraid they would be disciplined or fired for petty reasons. Harley’s favoritism is well known among team members at store 1541, workers also live under the threat of constant surveillance as Harley sits in the AP office monitoring workers over the camera system. Along with this team members have seen a drastic cut in their hours, making it impossible to cover costs of living. We’ve even received reports from workers that Harley wouldn’t accommodate pregnant team members and took away their stools so they couldn’t sit down.
As a result, workers marched on the boss to deliver the strike notice. It was upon delivery of the strike notice we received our first and only direct interaction with management or corporate in reference to our demands. After giving notice, workers started the picket line at the store entrance. Unlike our prior strikes in which our rights were violated, management didn’t make any threats to drive us away. We maintained the picket line all the way to April 17th, when workers delivered a return-to-work notice, based on our assessment that Target Corporation was taking the testimonies of worker abuse seriously. Kate Harley had been removed since the start of the strike and there was word an investigation had been opened.
It was to our shock that we found Kate Harley permitted to return as store team lead the day after workers announced the formal end of their strike. Workers took this as a slap in the face by corporate, that they don’t care what’s happening to the rank and file workers in our stores. We responded by assembling a community picket line with Target workers from multiple Target stores and with community supporters. It was a morale boost for team members after seeing Harley return to the job. Harley fled the sales floor when she heard workers and community members at the entrance chanting “Kate Harley has got to go!”.
As things stand now, corporate is conducting an investigation and interviewing team members about their accounts of abuse. We aren’t surprised that Harley wasn’t immediately terminated. In both prior strike actions against racist and sexually-harassing bosses, even they were not immediately terminated, but only after the conclusion of the internal investigation launched by corporate HR. Despite the state of the struggle not resulting in the immediate termination of Harley, this action was a success in several regards.
- We showed coworkers we have the right to strike and that we will not be retaliated against for exercising those rights. Not one worker who has gone on strike in our group has been terminated for exercising their rights.
- We showed coworkers solidarity and mutual aid are real, their strike fund was a success, all coworkers who went on strike received funds that covered more than their lost wages and many community members refused to shop at the store as we maintained the picket line.
- Since we have won multiple NLRB settlements against Target for violating our rights to organize and strike Target has now conceded (for now) over access to space we are entitled to, (such as parking lots, store entrances, the break room, and other non-work areas at the store)
- This was the first time Target workers have come together across multiple stores in the Baltimore area to link up and network so we can better support each other in our community. As a result of the strike we’ve had multiple Target workers from other local stores reach out wanting to get involved.
We have to view the struggle at store 1541 moreso as a beginning rather than an end. These team members reached out to us asking for help. We are here to support any Target coworker struggling with the conditions Target Corporation forces on us. All you need is the will to fight back and demand our fair share, we will always be there to step up and help out. We will build worker power one strike at a time and the strikes don’t have to be a majority of team members at a given store to be successful, as we have demonstrated in our prior strikes which have removed abusive bosses from our workplaces.
The “modernization” plan remains one of the most pressing issues affecting team members across stores. This has resulted in shorter hours and increased workloads as our paychecks remain roughly the same or smaller. In order for Target workers to get what we need – such as full benefits and a living wage – we will have to organize and coordinate nationally for mass strikes to force concessions from Target Corporation. The holiday season and the 4th quarter is the most crucial time for the executives and major shareholders to realize profits, a mass strike by Target workers during this time could be a decisive blow if we build enough unity between team members and stores across the country.
For those who feel such action is impossible, we would like to point towards the heroic struggles of our public school teachers across the country under conditions which were entirely unfavorable to them. They were in right-to-work states where state employees have no right to strike, join a union, or engage in collective bargaining, yet they organized through social media and facebook groups outside the normal channels of unions and non-profits, broke the law, got away with it and won their demands. If our teachers in our communities can do this when they have no protected rights to do so, why can’t we as Target team members when we already have more rights and protections than our teachers do?
We know there is a long way to go to organize and mobilize each other to engage in mass strikes and win major concessions from Target, but it’s a process, not a singular event. We have to work up towards larger scale actions by educating and demonstrating to our coworkers that we all can do this as ordinary people. In fact, it’s NECESSARY we do so, because the conditions are only getting worse. Walmart, Amazon, and Target are all competing with one another and using us workers to try to corner the market. No matter which one of these corporations win we are guaranteed workers will lose. We have to reverse this historic trend of degrading conditions for US workers. Our communities are suffering from poverty forced upon us by these same corporations who devalue our work and convince the general public their community members who work these stores don’t deserve to live decent lives and support our families.
We have to get respect and we won’t get it unless we fight for it. We can get our needs met, the money is there, we as the workers make these corporations their profits, we only allow them to keep those profits because we choose to not to demand respect. We hear from many coworkers that they take pride in their work, but what we need is coworkers to take full pride in our work and demand we be fairly compensated for the sacrifices we coworkers make to keep these stores running.
The future is bright, we can move mountains when we come together, build unity with each other and fight together to win respect and dignity for each other. We see what happens when we all operate as individuals and do what corporate and management tells us. We are forced to scramble and compete against one another, to out-hustle one another in the hopes we get a few more scraps, but if we come together and get organized we can make things better for all of us, instead of just a few. Take pride in your labor! Demand nothing less than full benefits and a living wage! It’s the least we are entitled to as the ones who keep these corporations alive! Get involved!