HADLEY — Earlier this month, 24 workers at the Hadley location of the arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels announced their intent to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1459. If they win an election before the National Labor Relations Board, they’ll become the very first union recognized at any store in Michaels’ nationwide chain.
On Aug. 10, the workers filed cards with the NLRB, triggering an election. Michaels employee Peter Boots-Faubert works as a framer at the store — a job they said pays minimum wage. In a phone interview, they told The Shoestring that a supermajority of workers have signed union cards. Two of the biggest issues for those workers, they said, were low pay and a lack of staffing.
“A lot of the time, people don’t get breaks,” they said. “There’s not enough people working.”
Michaels did not return an email from The Shoestring requesting comment.
With a population of just over 5,000, Hadley is best known, perhaps, for its asparagus. But now, the town is gaining fame outside of the region for another reason: new union organizing.
Hadley has now become a town of “firsts” in unionizing large corporate chains. Last July, workers at the Trader Joe’s just down the street from Michaels formed the first-ever union at that chain. Their independent union born in Hadley, Trader Joe’s United, went on to organize workers at Trader Joe’s in Minneapolis, MN, Louisville, KY, and Oakland, CA.
Then, this May, workers next door at Barnes & Noble in Hadley voted to unionize with UFCW Local 1459. That was the first stand-alone Barnes & Noble location in the country to unionize; two weeks, prior around 70 workers had voted to unionize a Barnes & Noble College Booksellers location at Rutgers University.
Michaels now becomes the latest store on the Route 9 corridor to unionize. The spark of new organizing led the news outlet More Perfect Union to dub Hadley “Solidarity Central.”
Chase Goates, who works mostly as a cashier at Michaels, said that he and others were inspired by Trader Joe’s United and then further buoyed when they saw Barnes & Noble workers unionize in the same Mountain Farms Mall building as them. Since the Michaels staffers went public with their union, he said the other nearby unions have reached out over social media to connect with them.
“Their support so far has been very positive,” Boots-Faubert said. “I love all of the ‘Hadley is a union town’ stuff going around,” Goates added.
Boots-Faubert said that workers at Michaels are paid very little and have to deal with workplace struggles like not being able to sit down, a lack of janitorial services and difficult hours. Goates added that the company responded to the union effort with “one of the most copy-paste union-busting letters I’ve seen.”
UFCW organizers Drew Weisse and Gillian Petrarca told The Shoestring that the union will represent all non-managerial workers at the Michaels location.
Weisse said that Trader Joe’s United had a big impact on both the Barnes & Noble and Michaels workers who decided to unionize.
“Once you see retail locations start to move, other workers at smaller companies or less prominent ones say, ‘Oh, we can do that too,’” Weisse said.
Michaels describes itself at the largest arts-and-crafts retailer in North America. Filings with the NLRB show that Michaels has hired a lawyer from the firm Ogletree Deakins, which is known for the “union avoidance” services it provides clients.
Photo by Mike Mozart
Dusty Christensen is an independent investigative reporter based in western Massachusetts. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dustyc123.
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