Members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union braved a sweltering June day to stage a demonstration outside Macy’s Herald Square flagship Wednesday afternoon.

This story first appeared in the June 9, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The union, which represents some 4,000 store employees at four New York-area stores, is in negotiations to renew a five-year contract slated to expire next week.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, said the retailer is attempting to take pension benefits from new workers, reduce hours of full-time employees and increase the cost of health care benefits from workers at a time when it is posting significantly improved sales and profits.

“We have a message for Macy’s,” he said. “The company is doing really well and it’s the employees who are the real magic of Macy’s. They’re in a position to offer decent wages and hours, but what Macy’s is trying to do is cut back on what employees earn.”

He added: “There has to be a limit to corporate excess and greed.”

Workers of Local 1-S of the RWDSU will vote this week to authorize whether or not to call a strike. The last time the union had a strike at Macy’s was in 1972.

Appelbaum said: “Nobody wants to strike, but we’re not afraid to strike.” He said the union authorized a 17-week strike against Mott’s in Williamson, N.Y., last year.

Elina Kazan, vice president of media relations for Macy’s, said: “Demonstrations are an expected part of the process during contract negotiations prior to the current contract expiration on June 15. We have been and will continue to be at the bargaining table with the union, discussing issues and working together toward reaching an agreement before the deadline. Our goal is to come to terms amicably with the union to prevent any work stoppage. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused shoppers today.”

Among those who spoke at the rally, which was attended by several hundred workers, were New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, New York State Assemblyman Rory Lancman and New York City Council members Letitia James and James Sanders.

Last month, Macy’s reported first-quarter earnings rose to $131 million from $23 million on a 5.7 percent gain in sales to $5.89 billion. May comparable-store sales rose 7.4 percent.

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