Workers at the North Philadelphia Home Depot location on Roosevelt Boulevard lost their union election on November 5th with a count of 165 to 51. This marks a disappointing loss but has opened the gateway to new organizing opportunities within the company and others like it. Vince Quiles, the lead organizer, admits it was a tall order to attempt to unionize 266 employees at this location.
Vince Quiles is Philly born and raised. He had gone to the local schools and spent some time at the Air Force Academy Prep school. While he didn’t end up joining the Air Force, he was in the presence of generals and high ranking military officials. They taught him leadership, teamwork and the integrity to “do the right thing when nobody was looking.”
Vince remembers the times at Home Depot when the workers there weren’t so heavily exploited. In the 1990s an associate could be found at every aisle of the store with a very generous wage of $25/hour. Adjusting for inflation, that wage would come out to at least $40/hour today. As of December 2022, the starting wage is approximately $10.15/hour. With Vince’s location having beat their profit goal $3,000,000 last year which should mean $12,000 more in pay for each employee, the company is most certainly a profitable location, and yet none of the workers are benefitting from the increased profits.
Vince’s sight of tough men being pushed to their limits by this company is what led him to decide to start organizing. Especially after the birth of his son and seeing behind the proverbial curtain as a supervisor, Vince was unwilling to be complicit in taking advantage of his coworker’s hard work. The 60 hour work week expected of him would also deprive him of a quality life as a father. “Don’t quit, organize” was his mantra and he began talking to his coworkers in June of 2022.
The time from first signature to going public was six weeks starting in August and ending in September. Filing with a minority of 106 signers in September set an uphill battle to reach a majority support before the election time.
The wait time for the election was little more than one month. The Home Depot company, unlike other corporations, wanted to get this election over with as quickly as possible instead of drawing it out with the hopes of demotivating the organizers. A large section of their customer base are union people and having a long election with any sort of anti-union perception from their customers would be highly volatile for the company, so they took the short route and got it over in November. Not only did the company deploy typical union busting tactics such as surveillance, interrogation and flooding the store with managers, but Vince found himself in a common position of being a lone organizer without a strong committee. “Vince has got this,” was the mentality of many pro-union workers with little motivation to contribute to the effort, while the opposition had hired a force from Ogletree Deakins in order to carry out the anti-union campaign. This resulted in many co-workers being prepped to reject conversations about unionizing before Vince even had the chance to make the connection. Vince is still determined. He continues to help other locations across the country start their campaigns and open people’s eyes to the process. As he says, “Home Depot is on notice.” LUEL will continue to monitor the situation and cove