By  on June 14, 2011

NEW YORK — The situation between Macy’s and its unionized workforce is heating up.

The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, which represents more than 4,000 workers at four of the retailer’s New York City area stores, including the Herald Square flagship, has authorized its executive board to call a strike in the event that a new contract is not secured by midnight on Wednesday. To hedge its bets, the department store took out an ad in The New York Times on Sunday seeking temporary sales staff in the event of a possible labor dispute.

“A vote by the union to authorize a strike is an expected part of the process during contract negotiations,” said Elina Kazan, vice president of media relations for Macy’s Inc. “We have been meeting daily to negotiate a new contract for approximately 3,800 employees before the current contract expires on June 15, and we will continue to be at the bargaining table with the union, discussing issues and working together towards reaching an agreement before the deadline. We have offered the union wage and benefits programs that will positively impact the lives of our associates, and will be among the best at department stores in New York City and across the country. Our goal is to come to terms amicably with the union to prevent any work stoppage at our four metro New York City stores — Herald Square, Parkchester, White Plains and Queens Center. We are available 24/7 to bargain in good faith until an agreement is reached.”

Last week, RWDSU staged a protest outside the flagship calling for Macy’s to back down on its attempt to take pension benefits from new workers, reduce hours of full-time employees and increase the cost of health care.

“This is a company that’s in great shape financially, so it’s unacceptable for Macy’s to try to extract such massive concessions when many members of its workforce are struggling,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU. “This is a textbook case of corporate greed and excess. Macy’s is in a position to give its workers a much better contract. It must stop trying to take away everything its dedicated workers have fought so hard and so long to get.”

The current five-year contract expires on June 15 and negotiations are ongoing, according to a union spokesperson. “It’s possible that the current contract could be extended into June-July to avoid an immediate strike if no deal is reached. We’re all hoping to avoid a strike and negotiate the best possible deal for the workers. Negotiations continue to be intense and difficult. The company is not offering nearly enough in our view and is continuing to push for concessions we find unreasonable,” said Dan Morris, director of communications for the union.

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