Is Target Really One of the 'World's Most Ethical Companies?'

Since we started covering Target's voracious anti-unionism and labor woes last year, former employees have described the company to us as "humiliating," "'pleasant' slavery," and "the sketchiest place I ever worked," among many other things. But—to our surprise—Target is also one of the "World's Most Ethical Companies."

Here they are, on this annual Most Ethical Companies list from Ethisphere, which "recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business 'ethically' and translate those words into action"—companies that "promote ethical business standards and practices internally." (This definition of "ethical business practices" must not include illegal union busting.) Target makes the list in the "Retail" category right next to Costco, a company famous for not being union-busters, and for having a notably satisfied work force. It's no wonder Target touts the honor on their corporate website.

It's also no wonder a former Target worker (from the Valley Stream store at the center of the current union battle) has started a petition to get Target removed from the list.

On that note, let's just run something from our perpetually-refilled Former Target Employee mailbag, shall we?

I worked at Target for 3 ½ years working my way up to a sales floor team lead (department manager) position. Near the end of my tenure we began having regular "Recognizing and Handling Unionization" meetings. Basically, we were taught to recognize the signs of employees trying to unionize, and what we could do to stop them or report it to the higher-ups. I'm not a huge fan of unions myself, but they have their place. One day I decided to ask "What would happen if they did unionize our store?" The response was that they would most likely shut it down. I was shocked because our store regularly placed in the top 20 of the more than 1500 stores in the company.

To add to the previous article, the store I last worked at is currently undergoing a large scale remodel and hasn't been closed even an hour earlier.

Also, while it sucked to be an employee, the worst position by far in that place (and I worked in multiple stores) is the team lead position. While the job isn't the most physically exhausting (though I did average walking 8 miles on an average shift), team leaders are constantly pushed to accomplish tasks and sales goals that are completely out of their hands. I met numerous talented people there who got their start working in retail. After a few months in management they were all convinced that they would never make it at any other job. In the words of one of my former store managers who now works for my new company, "They constantly make you feel as though you will never meet expectations so that you won't expect anything more from them."

The most egregious things I ever experienced there were shady dealings by the Assets Protection team in conjunction with the store/district management. On three different occasions at two different stores I witnessed a "shopper" (target regularly secret shops their own stores and has non-uniformed AP officers roaming most larger stores) leave a gift card they received with the purchase of an item at a checkout counter. On all three occasions, when the cashier or electronics specialist picked up the card and went to bring it to the Leader on Duty (executive store manager in charge at the time), they were intercepted by an AP officer who had been watching them on camera and terminated on the spot for "stealing". In each occasion the person terminated was someone who had previous issues with management, but had not committed any fire-able offenses.

Lastly, the week before my own termination/breakup (the only reasoning I was given was it "Just wasn't working out") I had to terminate three of my sales floor employees. Two of them I had considered friends and no longer speak to me.

Target sucks.

[If you're a current or former Target employee who'd like to share your experiences, email me. Photo: Patrick Hoesly/ Flickr]