Target is facing a labor board investigation after an employee activist website was blocked from store servers and flagged for 'hate and racism'
Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider
- Access to Target Workers United, an employee-created activist page, was restricted on servers in Target stores until Friday evening, a spokesperson for the retailer confirmed to Business Insider.
- Those attempting to access targetworkersunite.com were denied access last week because the website was classified as containing "hate and racism."
- The Target spokesperson said that a third-party vendor is responsible for blocking websites and flagging them for suspicious content. The website was removed from the "hate and racism" category by Friday evening, after which employees could access the website.
- A Target Workers Unite liaison filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Target Corporation on Friday, claiming that the retailer was restricting workers' rights to organize.
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Target is being accused of restricting workers' rights after an employee activist website was blocked from store servers and flagged for "hate and racism." Adam Ryan, liaison for the employee activist group Target Workers Unite, filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday.
As of Friday morning, access to the employee-created activist website targetworkersunite.com was restricted on servers in Target stores. Employees who attempted to access the page received a message that said the website was blocked by the network operator. The website was also categorized as "hate and racism."
Jared Watson, a current Target employee in California, said he attempted to access the website on Thursday and Friday. He received the following error message when he tried to reach it on Thursday, and he received a different message on Friday that said the webpage could not load because of connection issues.
A screenshot of the message that popped up when employees tried to access the website
Ryan, the liaison for Target Workers Unite, was also unable to access the website on Thursday night. In the organization's corresponding Facebook group, which he runs, multiple people posted similar screenshots of the blocking message that they said they received while using Target's server.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in December that employers have the right to restrict the use of company email and equipment for non-work matters. The ban requires that the employer not "discriminate against union or other protected concerted communications."
The charge filed against Target with the NLRB claims that the company engaged in unfair labor practices in blocking the Target Workers Unite website from its servers. The charge claims that this falls under discouraging union activity in disciplining or retaliating against employees engaging in protected activities like discussing wages, hours, and conditions of employment.
Edwin Egee, director of the office of congressional and public affairs for the NLRB, confirmed that the board is aware of the charge against Target and that an investigation is currently under way.
According to a Target spokesperson, a third-party company is responsible for blocking and flagging would-be problematic websites on Target's server. Though Target determines which categories of flagged websites are denied access on its server, Target is not directly involved in the process of blocking specific websites, they said.
The spokesperson said that after Target learned on Friday that the Target Workers Unite website was blocked for "hate and racism," company representatives flagged the issue to the third-party vendor, which followed up Friday evening with the news that the website had been reclassified into another category that was not blocked on the Target server.
The Target spokesperson did not confirm the name of the third-party vendor and said that the company had not yet been served with a charge from the NLRB.
The NLRB received 18,552 charges in the 2019 fiscal year.
Target Workers Unite is an independent network of Target employees that works to inform other employees about labor rights at Target. The group recently released the results of a survey project that included the responses of over 500 Target workers across 44 states. The goal of the project was to gain an accurate understanding of the sentiment among Target employees across the country.
Results from the survey were used to create the Target Worker Platform, which proposes changes to implement in stores in order to improve the workplace.
"We believe this is nothing more than Target executives trying to prevent Target workers from exercising our rights to organize ourselves and improve our jobs," Target Workers Unite said in a statement to Business Insider on Friday. "We will be filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board as we believe this violates our prior informal settlements with Target to not interfere with our rights to organize."
In response to the survey that was recently released, a Target spokesperson provided the following statement:
"Every year, we survey hundreds of thousands of team members and consistently hear from our team that they're satisfied with the pay, benefits and experiences they receive from Target. We also have a long history of investing in the more than 360,000 team members who come together to serve our guests, which includes a commitment to industry-leading wages, scheduling practices that balance our team members' availability with our business needs, and employee engagement that is well above industry averages. As we always do, we'll continue to solicit and respond to feedback from our team so we remain a place where our team members love to work."