KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Workers at McKay's in Knoxville are organizing to form a union with the Communications Workers of America. On Tuesday, they held a rally near the store with several community members and other groups.
At the rally, they provided information about the union while people joined the throng of red shirts. The shirts are one of the symbols that the workers use to show solidarity with each other. Organizers gave speeches and participants displayed signs showing their support for the union.
“There are workers who have been employed at McKay’s anywhere between five years to twenty-plus years. We love our jobs and care about our customers who depend on our services,” said Aaron Hege in a press release, a worker at McKay’s with 25 years of service. “But so many of us are struggling with the long hours, lack of adequate compensation, unfair scheduling, and other challenges that are making it difficult for us to continue to do our jobs."
The organizers also created a vision statement, where they outlined issues they hoped to resolve by creating a formal union and negotiating a new contract. The goals of the union listed on the statement are below.
- Democratic determination of store policy
- Transparent raises, benefits, and salary adjustments
- Transparency and worker collaboration on training and scheduling decisions
- Equitable hiring and termination practices
- Employee-mediated conflict resolution
- Clarifying the store's mission and core values, including supporting employees in need
First, the workers asked the store's owners to voluntarily recognize the union. When they said that was denied, they filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, according to the press release. Voting is underway and ballots will be counted on November 8.
“It is unfortunate that McKay’s owners chose not to recognize our union but we are confident that we will win this vote. Our hope is that they do not interfere with our organizing efforts and respect our right to have a union,” said Margaret Casteel in a press release, a worker at McKay's with six years of service.
Organizers also said in the release that they were inspired by a recent unionization push at Starbucks stores across the U.S., including in Knoxville. A store in the city was the first in the country to vote to unionize. They also said they were inspired by workers at the Three Rivers Coop Market. Some of those workers also attended the rally.
Community members were also invited to sign a pledge to show support for upcoming efforts the McKay's union organizers are planning.