Workers at a Home Depot store in Northeast Philadelphia have filed paperwork to unionize — launching an unexpected campaign that, if successful, could mark the largest collective bargaining unit to date at any branch of the global home improvement retailer.
According to a petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the unit seeks representation for 274 merchandising, specialty, and operations associates at the 4640 Roosevelt Blvd. branch under the name Home Depot Workers United.
Vincent Quiles, a store employee who identified as one of the organizing workers, told The Inquirer that he delivered a petition with 103 worker signatures to the NLRB on Tuesday after a store manager refused to accept it in person. Quiles said the main concerns of the proposed union are compensation, store staffing, and working conditions, with overall concerns about upper management.
“Long story short, we got screwed over during the pandemic,” Quiles said. “This company made money hand over fist, and we just feel exploited. A lot of times we feel like we’re just a means to an end to make other people a lot of money.”
A Home Depot spokesperson said the company was reviewing the situation and did not have immediate comment Tuesday. At the Roosevelt Boulevard store on Tuesday, a woman who identified herself as a manager declined to comment.
In 2019, a group of delivery drivers at a Home Depot in San Diego successfully organized with Local 287 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The NLRB database lists only three cases nationwide in which workers at Home Depot stores sought union representation, and none appeared to seek representation for an entire store.
“If we are successful, as far as I know, this would be the first store in the U.S. to successfully organize,” Quiles said.
Quiles said the 274 employees listed on his petition did not reflect the number of supportive members but the potential size of the unit he was seeking to organize, which he said was based off employment figures provided by the retailer.
Quiles said he began a “clandestine” campaign to organize his colleagues over the summer and found a receptive audience among both younger and veteran employees. Rather than working with an established union, Quiles, a Northeast Philadelphia native, said he wanted to file as fast as possible, for fear that management would intervene to disrupt the filing.
“It was a bit clandestine, just because Home Depot has a history of union-busting,” Quiles said.
Now, he says, the group is seeking support from more experienced organizers.
“What I wanted to do now is to get the petition in,” he said. “Now this week I have to reach out to organizing unions to say, hey, do you have any advice you can give us. We look a lot to what Amazon did up in New York. We’re hoping to maybe do the same thing, but as of now, it’s us and a handful of people who are offering advice.”
Philadelphia has been in the spotlight this year for labor organizing. In May and June, workers at five Starbucks stores in the city voted to unionize.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. See all of our reporting at brokeinphilly.org.