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Home Depot workers in Philadelphia vote on whether to form 1st unionized store

The Home Depot store is seen in Philadelphia on Feb. 22. Home Depot workers in  the city could form the company's first unionized store.
Matt Rourke
/
AP
The Home Depot store is seen in Philadelphia on Feb. 22. Home Depot workers in the city could form the company's first unionized store.

Home Depot workers in Philadelphia are deciding whether to form the company's first unionized store.

Voting begins at a Home Depot location in Northeast Philadelphia, where more than 260 employees are eligible to vote on whether to join the Home Depot Workers United, a new independent group formed at the store. The results are expected Saturday night.

If the union prevails, it would mark a historic moment for the country's largest home improvement retailer. And it would add another name to this year's list of chains facing first-ever unions: Amazon, Starbucks, Chipotle, Trader Joe's, REI, Medieval Times and Apple stores.

Labor organizers typically face high hurdles, with companies able to stage mandatory meetings and other efforts to discourage unionization.

At Amazon, only one of five union elections has succeeded so far, and the company is still fighting the union's sole victory. At Trader Joe's, the union lost an election in New York after winning two, in Massachusetts and Minnesota.

At Starbucks, the pace of organizing has slowed, and almost a year since the union's first win, Starbucks has barely begun negotiating a contract with unionized workers. Employees at 251 stores have voted to unionize, while workers at 56 stores have rejected the union.

At Home Depot in Philadelphia, organizer Vincent Quiles has told reporters that his original union petition included more than 100 signatures in support. But he also has described a generational divide at the store with younger workers, who tend to be more enthusiastic about unionizing, and older workers, who tend to be less so.

A Home Depot representative said the company respected the right to unionize but did not see it as "the best solution of its staff."

"Our open-door policy is designed to assure all associates that they can bring concerns directly to leadership, and we have a track record of working successfully with our associates to resolve them," the retailer's statement said.

Previously, some 60 Home Depot delivery drivers unionized in 2019 in San Diego, which the Teamsters said marked the first time the company's workers joined a union.

Historically, labor groups have struggled to gain a foothold in retail, where 4.4% of workers are members of a union.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.