Macy’s, reacting to the possibility of a worker strike, has placed advertisements seeking temporary replacement employees at four New York area stores.
By placing the ads, Macy’s steps up the pressure in its contract talks with Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
Nearly 5,000 unionized workers at Macy’s Herald Square flagship and branches in the Parkchester section of The Bronx, at the Queens Center Mall on Queens Boulevard, and in the Galleria in White Plains, N.Y., have threatened to strike on Wednesday if the company fails to meet demands to lower the costs of healthcare plans as part of a new contract. Healthcare is the central point of dispute, though there other issues such as wages. Macy’s sought to make certain holiday mandatory work days but backed down on that, according to the union. Last week, the union held a demonstration outside Macy’s flagship to rally support.
Elina Kazan, Macy’s vice president of media relations and cause marketing, told WWD, “We have placed ads in a few publications including yesterday’s [Sunday’s] New York Times. The ads call for replacement workers and clearly communicates that these positions are temporary and in anticipation of a labor dispute. The jobs would be available immediately and those interested can apply online at macysjobs.com.”
“I was startled by the Macy’s ads, but it is likely Macy’s negotiations in this difficult environment are going to go well and will likely settle before a strike,” said retail analyst Walter Loeb. He noted that management could run the cash registers and man the selling floors, if they had to, and that if the union workers do strike, it could be tough to recapture the money they lose.
According to the union, Macy’s requires employees to pay up to a $3,000 deductible per year before they can receive any coverage. The deductible is up to $6,000 for a family. The union says 75 percent of the Macy’s workers do not participate in this health care plan because it is too costly.
Local 1-S of the RWDSU is calling for a health care plan with no deductibles, low copays and improved prescription drug coverage.
Ken Bordieri, president of Local 1-S of the RWDSU, said, “As far as the Macy’s ads and bringing in scab labor, I think it’s deplorable. It’s not something you do in a union city. It’s not productive. It’s negative. Macy’s should be concentrating on what to do to avoid a strike and not break a strike. It’s meant to scare people.”
Bordieri said the union sat down with Macy’s on Monday to negotiate. “The day started out rough, but it eased a little. We are still very. very far apart as what we need to make health care affordable and living in New York as affordable.”