Photo by Scott Lewis/Flickr

It’s not just a long-rumored threat, it’s a promise put in writing.

The employment agreement for managers at Menards, the home-improvement giant, imposes a substantial cut in pay should the workers under their supervision form a union.

section of the employment agreement titled “Union Activity” sets forth: “The Manager’s income shall be automatically reduced by sixty percent (60%) of what it would have been if a union of any type is recognized within your particular operation during the term of this Agreement. If a union wins an election during this time, your income will automatically be reduced by sixty percent (60%).”

A copy of one such agreement signed in 2015 was obtained by The Progressive magazine. The clause calling on managers to be punished for union successes appears as Appendix J to the agreement. Newly hired managers are asked to initial every page. The agreement also specifies that managers “may be terminated at any time for any or no reason, with or without cause.”

The contract was provided by a management employee who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. The employee said the agreement is required for all management staff, adding that the threat was effective: “The mere mention of the word ‘union’ is a workplace taboo.”

Jeff Abbott, a spokesman for Menards, asked that questions about the agreement be submitted in writing, only to issue a terse response: “Employment agreements are confidential. Thank you.”

Menards, founded and headquartered in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, has more than 280 stores in fourteen states, according to its website. The company ranked 39th on Forbes’ 2015 list of “America’s Largest Private Companies,” with an estimated $8.7 billion in annual revenue and 42,000 employees.

Last March, investigative reporter Michael Isikoff reported that company owner John Menard Jr. secretly funneled more than $1.5 million to a political advocacy group working to support Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The article noted that Menards was subsequently awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from the scandal-plagued Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which Walker then chaired.

John Menard’s antipathy to unions is well-known. In a 2007 article in Milwaukee Magazine, a former store manager said he was made to attend “a one-and-one-half-day seminar in Eau Claire about fighting unions.” The article also quoted an ex-manager in Iowa saying that company policy included a 60 percent pay cut for managers should a store become unionized.

A 2003 Forbes article stated that a provision to this effect was part of a “contract” between Menards and a former manager who sued the chain for age discrimination. Other publications have referred to the 60 percent pay cut as a “threat.” The document obtained by The Progressive shows this language is included in employment agreements with management-level employees.

“Shame on Menards,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, secretary-treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, reacting to the employment agreement. “How are working people supposed to get ahead in this economy and work for a strong America when billionaires like John Menard are rigging the deck before working people even have a chance?”

Jessica Kahanek, a spokeswoman for the National Labor Relations Board, declined to comment on whether threatening managers with a pay cut if workers unionize constituted an unfair labor practice, saying “a case with a similar fact pattern could come before the Board at some time in the future.”

The National Labor Relations Act, to which Kahanek directed a reporter, makes it illegal to threaten “employees,” not managers, over union activity. But it would be illegal if a manager, in seeking to avoid a pay cut, employed threats or coercion against employees.

Carin Clauss, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who served as U.S. Solicitor of Labor from 1977 to 1981, believes the company might be vulnerable if a complaint were to be filed with the NLRB. The law, she notes, says an employer may not  “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees” in the exercise of their rights to form a union and, in her opinion, “you can interfere with employees by threatening a third party.”

Commenting without knowing the identity of the company, Clauss called the pay-cut threat “an outrageous practice” that she hoped would draw a complaint. “If I were the general counsel for NLRB, I would hope someone would file a charge so the board could take a position,” she said.

Clauss also suggested an agreement that threatened managers with consequences if they “don’t do something to interfere with employees’ organizing rights” could be deemed contrary to public policy and therefore void and unenforceable.

Harris Freeman, an expert in labor law at Western New England University's School of Law, said that even if threatening to cut the pay of managers is not an actionable violation, it is arguably “a pernicious practice” that could exacerbate workplace tensions. “What this encourages,” he said, “is for supervisors to not in any way identify with employees’ shared concerns.”


Bill Lueders is Associate Editor for The Progressive magazine.





I love shopping at Menards

The contract with the managers is merely to convey the importance of maintaining employee relations and eliminate any reasons why employees might believe that third party representation is needed. I love shopping at Menards and this article makes me want to shop there more because I despise Unions. I have a child that works at Menards while in college and I am very thankful that they are giving him an opportunity........if he doesn't like the job then he will find a new job. Unions are businesses and their sole purpose it to take their members money.......and will do anything to get it........even threaten the employees they represent if they don't want to join or desire to quit the union in a right to work state. If you want to see corruption just check out the practices of many unions and you will discover their rules for and practices toward their membership are much more coercive and threatening than this contract Menards has with their managers.

Give that this is a liberal,

Give that this is a liberal, pro-union site I'm guessing my last comment will not be published once reviewed and determined that it does not support the cause of unions.

Live better, work union

Live better, work union

1. Remember one thing about

1. Remember one thing about John Menard he only care about his pocket book not the employees who got him where he is a he took military discount away when Nascar driver Paul menard ( son )wasn't doing well. 2 Phil Woodman of Woodman's food stores head Quarter's in Janesville wis. he always remember the workers who got him where he is . sample My brother david retired from Woodsman's worked for Woodmans for over 25 years and received millions at the age of 49 you won't get that from the Menards .even as manager

Another evil big box retailer

Another evil big box retailer. Menards will also find their distributors and suppliers $5000-6000 per SHIPMENT if the freight carrier shows up late. Just another profit center.

So what's new. There is

So what's new. There is coercion in every non-union shop. That is why this country like many others do presently should require a union shop for any business or industry which employs over 50 full time equivalent people. The destruction of the middle class is caused by greed. The more the top gets the more of the pie they want. That is only human nature. You can't avoid it unless you put government regs in place to establish fairness. Otherwise we become a slave labor nation.

How about a # for those

How about a # for those stores so we can call and let them know hell will freeZe over before I buy anything again from them ever!!!!

As an employee of menards it

As an employee of menards it's a job and I pay my bills. I appreciate having a good job and if people stop shopping I wouldn't have a job. I understand what they did was wrong and there have been a lot of cuts but remember there are families work there.

They just cut all there

They just cut all there outside sales pay in half....why not report that in the news.????
I worked for them for 21 years with nine being a store manager. Every word of this is true and much more that is not listed here. If you want to make a lot of money very quickly then Menards is for you. If you want a life then give them 1 to 15th and go on find a real job. My average was 60 to 70 hrs per week. A Large Portion of our pay was in the form of profit sharing and management bonuses which easily reached $55 to $6th per year. The money was fantastic but the work atmosphere sucked. As did the WISCONSIN HILLBILLIES in charge. John menard, owner and founder had some on the biggest environmental fines in Wisconsin history. The company burned wood to heat their giant warehouses with some of it being the old style pressure treated that contained arsenic in it. So instead of having a hazardous waste disposal company take it, John took it home and put it out with his home trash. The guy is worth $8bn. and he was putt toxic (arsenic laced) out with his trash. How sad and cheap is that but it shows the mindset of the owner and it has trickled down into the culture of the company.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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