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Picture yourself waking up in the morning, putting on your uniform, and heading to work. You walk through the doors, say hello to your co-workers, and clock in for your shift. The picture that instead of having a relatively normal work day, you have to worry about being sexually harassed or discriminated against due to your gender, race, sexual orientation, or social class. Now, imagine that the person you are receiving this abuse from is your supervisor. This is what many employees at the Target in Christiansburg, Virginia have had to deal with from their store manager, Daniel Butler.
On August 24, Target employees marched to Store #1292 to deliver their strike notice. They stood in front of the store and informed other coworkers and customers of what had been going on. They received support from concerned community members, feminists, and old union members. Other businesses in the surrounding area also showed their support. Sheetz workers provided them with a box of snacks and offered jobs to the employees who may need them. Panera Bread also expressed their support, and a Verizon union worker bought them a case of water.
Seasonal cashier, Michaela Scott, was warned by other female employees of how “handsy” Butler could get. During her shifts, he would question her about store goals while placing his hand on her back and rubbing it gently. She also witnessed him complaining to customers about another, an older customer who needed his assistance. He called her “rude” and “stupid.” “I think what makes this whole situation so bad is that other people, including management, are aware of how he is and they do nothing about it. They even joke about it with the new hires,” said Scott.
While laughing loudly, Butler told Surrah Rodden, who held a Human Resources position at the store, that another worker was, “just trying to get those welfare benefits.” Rodden also witnessed Butler point out every cashier that was a minority and say, “See these people? They don’t do their job. They aren’t hard-working. Why should I pay them equally or even allow them to work here while others appreciate their job more?” During a morning meeting, Butler called Rodden out due to how much weight she had lost and wanted her to stand in the middle so that everyone could see her. “Butler makes the work place a hostile work environment for the majority of his employees, especially minorities,” said Rodden.
Another worker, who preferred to remain anonymous, was given a restaurant gift card for selling the most store cards. Butler told her numerous times that he would happily take her to the restaurant, just the two of them. When she ended up going with her family instead of him, Butler became very upset with her. During her time with the company, Butler also whispered things like, “you’re my favorite cashier,” into her ear and followed her around the store while she shopped during her breaks.
By day two of their strike, Daniel Butler was under investigation by Target. On August 28, the employees decided to call off the strike due to their belief that they had already won their battle and on September 8, they finally received word that Daniel Butler had officially been taken off of the Target payroll.
During their five-day strike, the Target employees were able to gather support from local politicians, businesses, and major unions shut down the shuttle service between Virginia Tech and the store and launch an investigation of Daniel Butler. According to the NRV Strike website, “For years workers at the Christiansburg Target have tried to go through the internal channels of Target Corporation to hold Butler accountable only to be ignored, and even worse, retaliated against. Our strike, and collective efforts before show the community what workers’ power means.” Sexual harassment and worker abuse continue to be an issue in many corporations across the country, but the termination of Daniel Butler could be considered by many as a significant step in the fight against such actions in the New River Valley.