After successfully organizing a handful of 99 Cents Only Stores truck drivers last year, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has joined with the United Food and Commercial Workers to launch a campaign to organize the rest of the discount chain's 7,500 hourly employees.

Under a joint agreement between the two unions, the UFCW is trying to sign up 6,800 cashiers, shelf stockers and other retail employees in four states, while the Teamsters are targeting 700 warehouse and distribution workers.

With active organizing under way for several weeks, the UFCW has already filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging 99 Cents Only supervisors and outside consultants have coerced employees and intimidated those suspected of aiding in the union drive.

One Arizona-based employee was terminated for publicly supporting the organizing effort, the complaint claims. "I have only seen Wal-Mart as anti-union as this employer," said Xavier Sandoval, organizing director for L.A.-based Teamsters Local 630.

Art Lopez, manager of employee relations for 99 Cents Only Stores, acknowledged that outside consultants were hired to work with store managers and district supervisors to dissuade workers from joining the union. But they stressed that the campaign is designed to educate, not intimidate, and denied that any employees were terminated for talking union.

"There is no restriction against free speech," he said. "But when people are on duty, they are supposed to be working."

The discount retail chain, based in the City of Commerce, operates 223 stores in California, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, the bulk of them in Southern California.

* The full version of this story is available in the April 4 edition of the Los Angeles Business Journal.

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