Menards Makes Managers Whose Staffers Unionize Pay in a Big Way

Menards, the home-improvement chain, doles out hefty penalties to managers who oversee staff who unionize. Though the company’s anti-union stance is well-known, the Progressive magazine has discovered that attempts to curb union activity are actually codified into the company’s contracts with employees. In fact, managers will have their pay cut by 60 percent if employees working under them form a union.

The policy is written into an employee agreement obtained by the Progressive. The publication cites language in a section titled “Union Activity” which states, “The Manager’s income shall be automatically reduced by sixty percent (60%) of what it would have been if a union of any type is recognized within your particular operation during the term of this Agreement. If a union wins an election during this time, your income will automatically be reduced by sixty percent (60%).”

Rumors of the anti-union agreement terms have circulated for years, but thanks to an intrepid employee, there’s now absolute confirmation of the policy. The anonymous staffer who handed over the contract told the Progressive, “The mere mention of the word ‘union’ is a workplace taboo.”

The contract also states that managers “may be terminated at any time for any or no reason, with or without cause.”

The Progressive spoke with Carin Clauss, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and former U.S. Solicitor of Labor who suggested the law might violate the National Labor Relations Act. That legislation says employers cannot “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees’” when it comes to their right to unionize. “[Y]ou can interfere with employees by threatening a third party,” Clauss told the magazine.

“If I were the general counsel for NLRB, I would hope someone would file a charge so the board could take a position,” she added.

AlterNet ran a piece examining Menards, as well as its CEO and owner John Menard—who’s worth an estimated $8.6 billion—back in 2011. Investigative reporter Adele M. Stan wrote that the store is “known throughout Wisconsin as a particularly bad operator, abusive to its employees and dismissive of environmental protection laws.”

Stan continued:

Reporter Mary van de Kamp Nohl found that the company docked employees' pay for circumstances beyond their control, such as a customer failing to pick up an order within ten days. Menards store managers were penalized for failure to inspect employees' lunch boxes before they left the premises and were prohibited from hiring anyone who had at any time been a union member. One store manager told Nohl that he was “forced to fire two promising management trainees because they'd been baggers at a unionized grocery store while in high school.”

Menards and CEO John Menard have been cited for dozens of environmental code violations; in 1997 Menard and his company were fined $1.7 million when Menard himself was found to have used “his own pickup truck to haul plastic bags filled with chromium and arsenic-laden wood ash to his own home for disposal along with his household trash,” according to Milwaukee. Earlier this year, Menard, Inc. was ordered by a judge to pay $30,000 to resolve a complaint of illegal hazardous waste disposal in Onalaska, Wisconsin. Menards has also run afoul of the Internal Revenue Service, which in 2004 billed Menard, Inc. for $5.9 million in back taxes and penalties, claiming that a substantial part of John Menard's $20 million salary and bonus actually constituted a dividend that had been improperly reported as employee compensation.

(h/t the Progressive)


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