John Menard’s Anti-Union Rules
A Menards manager leaks a copy of adamantly anti-union contract used by the company.
Now there’s evidence that Menard, whose net worth of $10.9 billion makes him the worlds 116th wealthiest man, is also one of the state’s worst employers, when it comes to anti-union rules. A story by Bill Lueders for Progressive published a copy of the employment agreement for managers which stipulates that “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.”
“The contract was provided by a management employee who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions,” Lueders wrote. “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.’”
Menard’s antipathy to unions was first reported in a 2007 Milwaukee Magazine feature by Mary Van de Kamp Nohl that I edited. In the story, an ex-manager described the clause with the 60 percent pay cut if a store became unionized and said he was made to attend “a one-and-one-half-day seminar in Eau Claire about fighting unions.”
Menard, reports Forbes (which did the latest ranking of his net worth), has “faced a number of high-profile lawsuits, including one from African-Americans who claim they were systematically denied promotions. The case was settled and Menard denied any wrongdoing.”
The National Labor Relations Board declined to comment to Progressive as to whether this contractual clause for managers would violate labor rights. But Carin Clauss, an emeritus professor of law at UW-Madison who served as U.S. Solicitor of Labor from 1977 to 1981, told the magazine he believes “the company might be vulnerable if a complaint were to be filed with the NLRB.”
Menard was last in the news about a year ago when Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, reported that Menard “wrote more than $1.5 million in checks to a pro-Walker political advocacy group that pledged to keep its donors secret.” That group was the Wisconsin Club for Growth, run by the ever-busy Eric O’Keefe.
Menard has been a poster boy for environmental violations in Wisconsin. His company has had more run-ins with the Department of Natural Resources than any other state company, receiving millions of dollars in fines for 21 violations. Menards was fined for disposing hazardous waste in 1994, charged by the Minnesota Attorney General in 2003 with manufacturing and selling arsenic-tainted mulch, fined $2 million in 2005 for having a floor drain that Wisconsin DNR officials believed was dumping chemicals into a tributary of the Chippewa River, hit with an administrative order from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for damaging a stream that ran through its property in South Dakota and fined $30,000 after an employee dumped a pallet of herbicide on a parking island of a Menard store in Onalaska.
Menard is also one of the donors who have given at least $1 million to the Koch Brothers, according to Mother Jones, to help supports its conservative causes. Menard was also a major donor to an anti-union program run by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.
In 2013, Menard won national attention and plenty of gossip after a titillating suit (that is still ongoing) accused him of “intentional inflection of emotional distress, battery, attempted battery, assault” and “attempted assault” against Tomisue Hilbert, the wife of Stephen Hilbert, a longtime business associate of Menard’s.