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NLRB: Quarry Home Depot Broke Law by Firing Worker With ‘BLM’ Apron

Plus Alan Page celebrated nationally, Amazon coffee machine raises labor eyebrows, and keeping up with Jim Rowader in today's Flyover news roundup.

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It’s the Quarry Home Depot, which is NOT where this NLRB violation took place. (See correction below).

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

Local Home Depot Makes National Headlines

Good news for people who don't like to being pushed around by their employers: The National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that the Home Depot in Minneapolis's Quarry Shopping Center violated labor law when it discharged a worker, Antonio Morales, for writing "BLM" on their work apron.

Its reasoning? Whether or not they're repped by a union, workers are allowed to engage in “concerted activities” aimed at “mutual aid or protection,” per existing precedent related to the National Labor Relations Act. Morales's refusal to remove the Black Lives Matter messaging was "concerted," the board ruled, due to its being the “logical outgrowth” of previous workplace demonstrations around racial discrimination. In short: Home Depot broke the law when it told Morales to ditch the "BLM" apron if they wanted to keep their job, according to the 3-1 board decision. Home Depot was ordered to offer reinstatement and back pay to Morales, who had resigned in protest. A spokesperson for the Georgia-headquartered hardware giant issued a huffy statement to HuffPost, but declined to say whether the company would appeal the ruling.

Let's hear from NLRB Chairman Lauren McFerran via press release: “It is well-established that workers have the right to join together to improve their working conditions—including by protesting racial discrimination in the workplace... it is equally clear that an employee who acts individually to support a group protest regarding a workplace issue remains protected under the law.” Following the 2020 police murder of George Floyd in south Minneapolis, employers like Whole Foods (which cracks down on workers supporting BLM) and Starbucks (which doesn't) have had to navigate worker expression vs. making all customers as comfortable as possible. Do those two companies find common ground when it comes to being anti-union ghouls? You better believe it.

You Gotta Read This Long Alan Page Profile

Understandably, a lot has been written locally about Alan Page, the Viking great who'd go on to become the first African American Minnesota Supreme Court justice and first African-American elected to a statewide office. Earlier today, however, a national audience learned about the great man when Dan Pompei, senior writer for The Athletic, published this long, illuminating profile on Page's heroic efforts on the fields of football and social justice. We learn that he hates signing autographs, but does just that during his frequent visits to Justice Page Middle School in south Minneapolis. We learn that he doesn't drink alcohol or tolerate B.S. fines, much to the respective '70s-era chagrin of fellow Purple People Eater Jim Marshall and legendary coach Bud Grant. We learn about his ultramarathoning, his pioneering legal career, and the rare honors to which he has been bestowed: The Pro Football Hall of Fame and The Presidential Medal of Freedom among 'em. “I couldn’t think of someone better to represent the team, Minnesota, and Black people,” says fellow Viking all-timer John Randle. We encourage you to read the whole piece.

Is Amazon Spying on Workers via Coffee Machines?

Maybe the coffee machine at Amazon's Maple Grove warehouse is totally benign, a dispenser of java that just so happens to surveil the worker breakroom. But when a worker discovered that the machine had been secretly taking photos by accidentally accessing a touchscreen button that read "gallery," the news “spread like wildfire” and spurred a “hubbub,” worker Jonathan Canaday tells Sahan Journal. Hmm! An Amazon spokesperson claims a malfunction caused the coffee machine to snap photos of workers, and that it's in the process of being replaced.

“We see there are security cameras around the building," Canaday says. "That’s fine. But cameras in the coffee machine seem really duplicitous. It’s really upsetting.” Amazon, of course, notoriously subjects warehouse workers to extreme surveillance that leads to injuries, something a union could surely push back against... if the tech giant wasn't so notoriously anti-union. In late 2022, a union push emerged inside the company's massive Shakopee fulfillment center—we encourage those workers to keep things hush-hush around the coffee machines.

Never Forget: James Rowader Appeared in Target's Cartoonishly Paranoid Anti-Union Video

In labor circles, a certain Target Corp. employee training video has achieved internet infamy. In it, union organizers scurry around a Target store like rats with evil intent, while wise Target managers (who were apparently played by union actors) inform viewers of the nasty tricks unions like to pull.

At the seven-minute mark, a Target labor-relations lawyer appears to give you the straight dope. "Experience has shown us that, after learning the facts, Target team members agree union representation is not in their best interests," warns Jim Rowader, who precedes to spout off talking points ripped from the corporate anti-union playbook. "The famous video is no longer shown," an organizer with Target Workers Unite told us in 2022. "But many workers still believe unions are illegal, and generally don't know their rights as defined by the National Labor Relations Act."

Why are we reminding you of this? Because Rowader just won't disappear from local politics. Following stints as Minneapolis city attorney and, most recently, the HR guy for ACLU of Minnesota, he secured a new gig Wednesday from Gov. Tim Walz: executive director of the freshly formed Cannabis Expungement Board. Expunging low-level marijuana offenses sounds a lot more admirable than fighting the labor movement, and it'll keep Rowader busy. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension estimates 66,000 Minnesotans could benefit form the sealing of pot-related misdemeanor records.

Anyway, roll the tape!

Correction to a correction: A previous version of this article identified the offending Home Depot as a Home Depot located in suburban New Brighton, Minnesota. In fact, the Home Depot in question is located at 1520 New Brighton Blvd. in Minneapolis, but due to an error in the NLRB press release... we've been going back and forth. Ack!

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