A Northeast Philadelphia Home Depot made national headlines this week after more than 270 employees filed a petition to unionize with the National Labor Relations Board.
This move comes after 100-plus verified signatures were made, making way for what could become the nation’s first union at the big box home improvement retailer.
The group, who is going by the name ‘Home Depot Workers United,’ is led by 27-year-old receiving associate Vincent Quiles.
Quiles, who stepped down from a manager role, has been with the company for five and a half years. Currently, he makes $19.25 an hour in his receiving associate position. He says what ultimately fueled this movement was his empathy for his fellow colleagues around him.
“Seeing the struggles we were going through, feeling like our concerns were falling on deaf ears, sometimes it takes somebody to be courageous,” said Quiles. “To stand up and say what needs to be said.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Quiles says he and many of his colleagues felt exploited by the lack of staffing and additional workload requests. That included working in different departments with little training and lack of compensation accounted for in the end.
“In this store, between 2020 and 2021, we made $51 million in profit. We did not get very much of that,” he said.
Quiles credits his perspective from his time as a supervisor and the knowledge he acquired during that period.
“It’s a mixture of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes and just seeing the people here and knowing they deserve better,” he added. “They deserve a lot more than what they get.”
According to The Associated Press, Home Depot spokesperson Sara Gorman said in an email, “While we will of course work through the NLRB process, we do not believe unionization is the best solution for our associates.”
Quiles says that post-pandemic, he believes this situation shines a light on the current climate being experienced by many across the country.
“I think this is important. Ultimately, what got highlighted during the pandemic was a very ugly reality that we were trying to avoid as a country. The fact that working-class folks in this country aren’t appreciated the way that they should be,” he said.
“I want people to recognize the power that they have…you have to flex that collective power, or they’ll never listen if you don’t.”