While not all of New York City's immense department stores are unionized, Macy's, the world's largest, is, and the five-year contract covering its nearly 4,000 area workers expires next week. They should be bracing for a tumultuous negotiation. Crain's reports that today's visitors the Herald Square flagship store will find workers protesting proposed cuts in scheduling and benefits just as the company has announced increased same-store sales and a fivefold increase in first quarter earnings. Workers are arguing that further profit increases shouldn't be pursued at their expense and that they should be sharing in the store's success instead of losing work hours, overtime and other benefits. Macy's management is expected to defend their demands by pointing to a murky economic future and sharply rising apparel prices which could affect business in the immediate future. It all sounds like a potential PR nightmare that could tarnish the store's reputation with the kind of nickel and diming usually associated with discount chains like Walmart.
Will we see picket lines in front of local Macy's stores? Workers, who are represented by Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers Union are expected to vote this weekend on whether or not their union should authorize a strike. Today's rally is expected to include Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio whose planned speeches could draw more public attention to the impending contract re-negotiations. Job growth in the retail sector has been among the city's strongest over the past year, and yet it is also the city's second lowest paid. Crain's quotes the president of Local 1-S, Ken Bordieri, as alleging that some of Macy' workers are on food stamps and living in homeless shelters. Demands for wage increases have not been well received by management, but if that is the case, it could go a long way toward explaining why service at Macy's can sometimes be, shall we say, underwhelming?
Macy's Employees Prepare To Protest By Daniel Massey and Adrianne Pasquarelli (Crain's)