Lowe’s Workers in New Orleans Petition to Form Company’s First-Ever Union

Lowe’s workers in New Orleans have filed a petition to unionize, seeking to become the first unionized location of the home improvement company’s 1,723 U.S. stores.

According to the filing posted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union would cover 172 workers at the store, including sales associates and those on fulfillment, merchandising and receiving duties.

Workers are unionizing under the name Lowe’s Workers United, according to the filing. It’s unclear if this is an independent union or if it is affiliated with an established labor union. If it is independent, the Lowe’s workers will join a growing number of workers who have successfully unionized at companies like Amazon or Trader Joe’s under an independent effort.

The company already appears to have hired union-busting lawyers from law firm Barnes & Thornburg, who are listed as legal counsel for the company on the union filing.

Indeed, the company has had a history of opposing unions; a training video made by the company that has circulated the internet for a number of years contains multiple anti-union talking points and encourages managers to call an internal “labor hotline” if there is unionizing activity among the employees.

If the company doesn’t voluntarily recognize the union, which it is reasonable to assume it will not, at least 30 percent of eligible workers must sign a union card in order to qualify for a union election conducted through the NLRB.

Data shows that workers at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores are often paid low wages. According to the Economic Policy Institute, about half of Lowe’s workers are paid less than $15 an hour. Other research has found that, in 2020, the median salary for full time retail workers at the chain was a mere $24,000, or only about $11.50 an hour.

The minimum wage in New Orleans is $13.25 an hour. A living wage for New Orleans — even for a single adult with no children — is $16.32 an hour, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator.

The salaries of the unionizing Lowe’s workers are unclear. However, Lowe’s was among the companies that spent more on stock buybacks than on worker raises in 2021, spending $13 billion on buybacks.

The filing comes on the heels of a recently announced union drive at another home improvement equipment store. Last month, workers for a Home Depot in Philadelphia filed to unionize under an independent union named Home Depot Workers United. If workers are successful in their union election, slated for November 2 and 5, they will become the first to form a union within the company.

Vince Quiles, one of the lead organizers in the Home Depot effort, expressed solidarity with the Lowe’s workers in a tweet on Thursday.