June 10, 2011
By Stephanie West
On Wednesday June 9th, over two hundred Macy’s employees gathered outside the flagship store on Herald Square despite the extreme heat to rally for better wages and workers rights.
With their five year contract due to expire on June 15th, many workers fear that they will lose their jobs or be forced to work part time, enduring a pay cut and possible loss in benefits. Said Macy’s stock person Ward Jaymes, “Eight dollars is certainly not enough to live on. Many of us need to support a family, and the company needs to understand that.”
Union members carried banners and signs that read, “The Real Magic of Macy’s is it’s Workforce” and “Working at Macy’s is Not a Parade,” and sang along with a live band.
Currently, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union is in the process of negotiating with Macy’s on behalf of over 4,000 workers. According to RWDSU staff, the contract is still “not acceptable” at this point.
Stuart Applebaum, president of RWDSU, said, “Macy’s has been boasting about how well they are doing. Their sales are increasing, they’re rewarding top executives royally. Yet they’re looking to take money away from the very workers who have made them successful.”
The chief issues that RWDSU is pursuing in their negotiations are wage increases, affordable healthcare, and guaranteed pension plans.
Many workers at the rally were very concerned with the new scheduling system, whereby employees sign up for their hours on a “first come first serve” basis.
According to one union representative, this makes it very hard for workers to earn overtime and qualify for full time pay.
Among the workers and union representatives, several local politicians and elected officials came out to support the employees.
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said in his speech, “There are certainly businesses hurting all over the city… Macy’s is not one of those businesses.”
Although no strike vote has been taken and many workers hope that the contract can be negotiated quickly, union workers fear that their demands will not be met.
“We’re ready, if we need to strike,” said Ken Bordierie, president of Local 1-S RWDSU. “We have picketers ready, the union members are ready, the signs are ready. The members are serious.”
Macy’s union workers have not gone on strike since 1972.