Hundreds of union workers are planning to rally by Macy’s Herald Square on June 2 to protest concessions the department store is seeking in contract talks.
Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has been in contract talks with Macy’s since mid-April and is threatening to go on strike on June 15 if an agreement on a new contract is not reached by then. The last time the union struck Macy’s was in 1972.
Local 1-S represents about 5,000 workers at four Macy’s stores, including Herald Square 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. The rally will be held on the 34th Street side of the Macy’s flagship, between Seventh and Sixth Avenues, from 11:30 to 2 p.m.
“Primarily, Macy’s wants people to work holidays if they are needed. Right now it’s voluntary. Our workers like having the option. That’s a major issue,” said Ken Bordieri, president of Local 1-S RWDSU. “Macy’s is leaning heavily on Memorial Day and Labor Day — that’s when they have the least amount of volunteers to work.” Other holidays could be required to work days, including Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, if Macy’s has its way.
Macy’s is also seeking caps on wage hikes, changes in how overtime is determined and wants to freeze pension contributions, which the union opposes. The union is also seeking to make health benefits more affordable. The duration of the next contract would be another issue. Contracts are typically three to five years.
Asked if it’s standard procedure to stage a rally and threaten a strike, Bordieri replied, “Everybody has to show their strength. Macy’s has the ability to just sit at the table and say no. We don’t have that luxury.”
There have been some “tentative agreements” reached on non-economic issues,” Bordieri said. “We haven’t gotten into the real heavy stuff yet,” he said. “We want Macy’s to survive and flourish but at the same token employees need to have their fair share. That’s what this is all about.”
“Macy’s is committed to bargaining in good faith, discussing all of the issues at the bargaining table and working towards reaching an agreement before the June 15 deadline,” said Elina Kazan, Macy’s vice president of media relations and cause marketing. “Any planned actions to rally or for calls to strike by the union are an expected and standard part of the negotiation process.”
Last week, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “Macy’s workers are the real magic of the company. The company cannot afford to undermine its workforce at a time when it faces greater competition from online retailers like Amazon. The talented employees of the iconic Macy’s flagship and branch stores in the New York City area know how valuable they are to the company’s brand and profitability. We stand with Macy’s workers in their fight for a fair contract and support their decision to go on strike if the company does not negotiate in good faith.”