NEW YORK — A crowd of more than 100 employees from Bloomingdale’s Manhattan flagship took to the streets Tuesday to call for better pay and benefits in their new union contract.
“It has to do with fairness,” said Ida Torres, president of Local Three of the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union, which represents about 2,000 employees at Bloomingdale’s East 59th Street store and corporate headquarters. “The workers are the secret to the profits, whether they’re doing the grunt work or more glamorous work. We are the face of the company. We make this department store what it is.”
Richard Singer, recorder for Local Three, explained that the workers’ last four-year contract expired on March 1 and that employees are currently working under a 60-day extension that went into effect when the contract expired. He said there would be no further extensions of the prior contract.
Union officials said they were looking for a 1 percent increase in commission rates for sales people, a $1-an-hour hike in basic wages and retention of their current medical insurance.
They claimed their raise requests were modest in comparison to awards to top management at Bloomingdale’s and its parent, Federated Department Stores. According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, last year Terry Lundgren, who was elevated to the post of chairman and chief executive officer of Federated, saw his compensation more than double to $5 million, including bonus and restricted stock awards. That compared with $2 million in 2002, when he was president and chief operating officer.
Indicating opposition to a proposal by management to switch the employees’ coverage to a health-maintenance organization, demonstrators chanted “Hell no, we don’t want no HMO.”
Stuart Applebaum, president of the RWDSU, said, “Retail workers in New York City have the right to expect fair wages and health-care coverage.”
Torres claimed that the last time the contract came up for negotiation, Bloomingdale’s management proposed doing away with the health-care plan for store employees entirely. This time, she said, “They want us to show on a dollar basis that they’re getting the best bang for the buck.”
Bloomingdale’s officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.