Bruce Murphy
Back In The News

John Menard’s Anti-Union Rules

A Menards manager leaks a copy of adamantly anti-union contract used by the company.

By - Apr 7th, 2016 12:59 pm


We already knew that home-improvement tycoon John Menard was the state’s worst environmental violator, not to mention a rather bizarre fellow.

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.

As Isikoff reported, “In the past two years, Menard’s company has been awarded up to $1.8 million in special tax credits from a state economic development corporation that Walker chairs,” referring to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which has been shadowed by constant problems and controversies since its creation. “And in his five years in office, Walker’s appointees have sharply scaled back enforcement actions by the state Department of Natural Resources — a top Menard priority,” Isikoff added.

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.

9 thoughts on “Back In The News: John Menard’s Anti-Union Rules”

  1. Paul Kosidowski says:

    You’d think that a guy with so much cash on hand would throw a little at a composer/music producer and update that annoying commercial jingle.

  2. Kent Mueller says:

    I’d like to admire John Menard, I really would. I mean, he built an empire from scratch, starting out by constructing pole barns for someone else, went into the business himself and built from there. Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls are better cities for the presence of Menard’s HQ. That said, he’s what I call a “Hillbillionaire”. How else to describe a man who conned one of his teenage warehouse employees into helping him load his pick-up truck with bags of illegally removed asbestos pipe insulation and then proceeded to dump it in a nature preserve? It certainly wasn’t a matter of money not to do a legal, by-the-books abatement, it was a matter of screwing the system. Yee haw! A classic case of a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. He’s burned enough people on his way up for someone to sell tickets for the privilege of urinating on his eventual grave.

  3. Skeptic says:

    Kent Mueller I agree with 95% of your posted comment. However, I’d disagree with your claim that EC and CF are better cities for Menard’s presence. People like him rarely use their wealth to improve their communities–they usually use it to buy their way into the big boy leagues, buy politicians who can and will legislate in support of his business interests, and to punish their enemies–business, political and personal. For a guy who flouts environmental regulations, labor laws and common decency to the extent that Menard does, I’d contend that he’s damaged the communities in which he’s lived and done business.

    I’m done doing business with him since reading the Milwaukee Magazine features to which Bruce Murphy refers.

  4. rnprn says:

    Via social media, there is a big campaign to boycott Menard’s. People are ticked off he is paying to play and getting tax breaks for his $1.5 million to Walker. Most would rather pay more than give a penny to the huckster.

  5. Homesteader says:

    I’ve been trying to wean myself from shopping at Menards. I’ve been shopping more at a small local lumberyard and have been surprised at the quality of the lumber, compared to what I was used to getting at Menards. Yes, it costs a bit more, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. It appears that at Menards you get a bit more than what you pay for, i.e., more support for anti-union, anti-environmental, anti-taxes-for-billionaires causes.

  6. Casey says:

    Homesteader- what lumber yard are you using?

  7. Dave says:

    The irony, if you want to call it that, is that douchebags like this who have stolen much of the wealth that the rest of us deserve over the last generation has forced many of us who’d rather shop at local stores go to the big box where the prices are affordable to those of us who earn the scraps left over from the 1%.

  8. A Bus Driver says:

    How refreshing to see comments by people that are not asleep & don’t have their heads buried in the conservative BS that seems to have taken over all sense of logical reasoning. I still don’t know why people elected Scooter.

  9. James Asbury says:

    Home Depot give military vets a 10% discount, Menards does not. I do not ever shop at Menards. Ever.

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