With Black Friday nearing and many going into the holiday shopping season with a see-it-buy-it mentality due to shipping shortages, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is encouraging shoppers to respect workers and proceed with caution.
Representing 100,000 members in the U.S., the RWDSU’s president Stuart Appelbaum issued a statement Wednesday noting among other things that the supply chain is “still precarious as we emerge from the pandemic.” While members are eager “to welcome customers back to stores,” he said, “as incidents of harassment, violence and hate continue to rise in stores, workers are worried about their physical and mental safety.”
Retail workers “bear the brunt of shoppers’ frustration,” with tempers’ quickly rising due to “coveted holiday items being stuck on shipping containers at sea and having been back ordered for months,” Appelbaum said, adding that going home empty-handed after multiple store visits is a factor.
”Workers are not to blame and stores should provide security, safety protocols and training to handle irate shoppers this season. Retail workers experienced heightened stress and pressure this time of year, even in normal times. Shoppers need to remember what this season is supposed to be all about — kindness,” Appelbaum said.
Asked if the National Retail Foundation has offered any guidelines to keep things calm in stores during the busy holiday shopping season, a spokeswoman noted an ongoing campaign that was started last year and encourages consumers to shop safe and shop early. In addition, the NRF’s RISE Up program released a Customer Conflict Prevention credential last year to safely operate during the pandemic. That is also ongoing, the spokeswoman said.
No specific incidents of harassment, violence or hate were singled out by the RWDSU’s Appelbaum. Abraha Ermias, a 21-year-old was shot Monday as he left a Target store in Easton, Ohio, Monday. In May, three people were wounded in a shooting in the Aventura Mall near the entrances to a Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton and Carolina Herrera store. Two men were reportedly recently arrested in conjunction with that. Last month two people were shot and killed and at least four others were injured at the Boise Town Square mall in Idaho. The assailant Jacob Bergquist exchanged gunfire with police and died the following day.
In what appeared to be another preemptive strike, Appelbaum issued another statement in advance of the U.S. Senate’s consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a $10 billion subsidy for one of Jeff Bezos’ companies, Blue Origin.
The 2022 NDAA is now being hammered out in the Senate, after Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) took action on the bill Monday.
Appelbaum said, “Jeff Bezos shouldn’t receive taxpayer subsidies for his personal projects — period. In at least two recent years, one of the richest people on the planet paid no income tax; yet he then demands billions in taxpayer funds for a project that’s already been awarded to another company. That is the height of hubris.”
Blue Origin declined comment Wednesday, according to a company spokeswoman.
“Rather than waste $10 billion on a redundant space contract for Bezos,” the money could be used “to adequately fund social security, disability, Medicare, Medicaid, and the food stamps that many of his employees at Amazon and elsewhere have to rely on to make ends meet, Appelbaum said.
Amazon did not respond immediately to a request for comment.