Thrift store employees attempt to unionize

November 5, 2013

Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers
Workers at the Unique thrift store are attempting to unionize.

Workers at a thrift store on Chicago’s North Side are trying to form a union. Some employees at the Unique thrift store in Chicago earn close to minimum wage and no benefits even though they have worked full time at the store for more than 10 years.

Unique is run by a for-profit company called Savers based in Bellevue, Washington. The company gets some of their items from charities like the Salvation Army.

Professor Chris Tilly is with the University of California Los Angeles. He says bigger department stores like Macy’s were unionized in the past. Today, retail, much less a thrift store, is more challenging to organize,.

He says a group in New York called the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has been successful by taking a community approach.

“It’s partly also about creating an environment where there’s pressure coming from workers and community. In that sense, it’s very much like the fast food campaign, and the 'Our Walmart' campaign,” he said.

Workers United, the group representing the Unique employees, says they're planning on organizing all 12 of the store’s Chicago locations.

Unique management did not return a request for comment.

Susie An covers business for WBEZ. Follow her @soosieon