Home Depot Workers Reject Union Effort In Philadelphia

The home-improvement chain still doesn't have a union at any of its 2,000 U.S. stores.

Workers at a Home Depot in Philadelphia voted decisively against unionizing in an election held this week, turning back an effort to form the home-improvement chain’s first organized store.

A ballot count held Saturday by the National Labor Relations Board showed the upstart union, Home Depot Workers United, lost 165 to 51. The board has not certified the results yet, and the union has a week to file any challenges.

Home Depot does not have a union at any of its 2,000 U.S. stores, although some of the company’s drivers in California are represented by the Teamsters. The company opposed the organizing effort in Philadelphia and flooded the store with managers in an apparent effort to weaken any union support.

The chain told HuffPost before the vote count that “we respect the right to unionize, we just don’t believe it’s the best solution for our associates.”

The union effort was led by Vince Quiles, a 26-year-old worker in the store’s receiving department. Quiles gathered signed union cards from nearly 40% of the store’s workforce in order to get the election scheduled (the board requires signatures from at least 30% of the would-be bargaining unit).

In an interview with HuffPost after he filed for the election, Quiles said the store’s employees were overworked and underpaid, and that working through the pandemic had made him feel like a union was necessary.

“People come in and bust their ass. They work really hard,” Quiles had said. “Whatever happens, [Home Depot is] going to take us seriously and they’re going to respect the people in that building more.”

“Home Depot does not have a union at any of its 2,000 U.S. stores.”

U.S. employers have seen a surge in workplace organizing recently. Workers filed more union election petitions this past fiscal year than in any other since 2016. They have succeeded in creating the first unions at a host of big-name employers, including Amazon, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Apple, REI and Chipotle.

Like at some of those other companies, the Home Depot union effort was a new, independent campaign, unaffiliated with an established labor group like the Teamsters. Such campaigns come with certain advantages, but they lack the resources and organizing staff that traditional unions bring to the table.

The independent Amazon Labor Union won a historic vote at the tech giant’s Staten Island warehouse earlier this year, and later lost two elections at smaller facilities. The new union Trader Joe’s United won its first two elections — one in Hadley, Massachusetts, and another in Minneapolis — and lost a vote at a store in Brooklyn last month.

The union Workers United, which is behind the campaign to unionize Starbucks, has successfully organized more than 200 stores over the past year. The coffee chain previously did not have a single union at any of its U.S. corporate stores. Those that have joined Workers United are now trying to bargain their first contracts.

Quiles said the success of those other campaigns motivated him to try to take on his own employer.

“We’re inspired by Starbucks and Amazon — let us be the catalyst at Home Depot,” he said.

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