The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled a union representation on June 21 for more than 6,000 employes of the Woodward & Lothrop Department Stores.
The vote will be the largest union election ever held in the Washington area.
Local 400 of the Retail Store Employees Union is seeking to oust an independent union that has represented Woodies' workers for more than 30 years.
In a letter to management employes this week, Woodward & Lothrop President Edwin Hoffman said the company will urge employes to take the third choice on the ballot - no union at all.
Complaining that union organizers "have disrupted our store for over four months," Hoffman said union representation would "prevent management from dealing directly" with employes.
The NLRB vote was ordered after more than 3,000 Woodies' workers signed petitions asking to be represented by the AFL-CIO clerks' union.
The election will cover employes in 14 stores and two warehouses of the department store chain. All the workers are now represented by the independent union, whose contract expires June 30.
Officials of the independent union could not be reached for comment yesterday. Union president Natalie Koelling has previously accused Local 400 officials of misleading workers about the alleged benefits of affiliation with the AFL-CIO-backed union.
Local 400 President Thomas McNutt said the right of employes to ratify a contract will be a major issue in the campaign. "In the past, inferior settlements have been imposed on Woodies' employes by a bargaining committee" whose actions were not subject to the members' approval, he said.
"We think we can make a compelling case that employes can expect higher wages and better benefits," with the AFL-CIO union.
Although several union workers were arrested for trespassing at Woodward & Lothrop stores last winter, the union recently has changed tactics. Instead of passing out union literature to employes, the union has invited workers to special showings of the movie Norma Rae, which is about a union organizer in a southern textile plant.
In other labor developments, the NLRB has scheduled a May 24 union vote for about 1,000 hotel employes at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.
The hotel, Restaurant and Cafeteria Employes Union local 23 from Norfolk is seeking to represent workers in the hotel division at the popular tourist attraction. The vote covers only about a third of the employes at Colonial Williamsburg.
Washington leaders of the restaurant and retail clerks union also announced they have asked the UFL-CIO to organize a boycott of two as yet unopened Marriott Corp. hotels in Washington.