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November 16, 2012

Statement in Response to Unfair Labor Practice Charge Filed by Walmart Seeking Injunction from UFCW Picket Lines

Washington, D.C. –  The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to Walmart’s unfair labor practice charge filed against the UFCW which seeks an injunction from UFCW picket lines:

Walmart is grasping at straws to try to stop a groundswell of voices from associates and their supporters who are protesting the company’s unlawful attempts to silence workers.  Associates are exercising their freedom to speak out in protest of Walmart’s unfair actions against their coworkers.  Supporters like UFCW members, religious leaders, community members and other activists are taking action to support Walmart associates and demand the company listen to its workforce to improve working conditions.   There’s nothing in the law that gives an employer the right to silence workers and citizens.

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, women advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

November 16, 2012

Statement by UFCW International President Joe Hansen on Walmart’s Corrupt Business Practices

(Washington, D.C.) – Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) today released the following statement in response to the New York Times ongoing reporting on Walmart’s corruption and purported cover-up by senior company officials.

“The New York Times reported today that Walmart’s own internal reviews show more extensive corruption and internal cover-up than previously reported or admitted to by the company.  Walmart CEO Mike Duke and Chairman Rob Walton have failed to take any responsibility to shareholders, associates or the federal government for their leadership of the company in the face of reported illegal conduct.

“High paid public relations campaigns cannot undo illegal activity.  Walmart paid lip service to the bribery scandal and, even worse, engaged in illegal activities to silence its associates.  Walmart shareholders, associates and customers deserve answers.

“The reported cover-up by Walmart executives at the highest levels exposes a core truth:  Walmart cannot be taken at its word.  We ask that Congress immediately convene hearings to examine whether Walmart’s U.S. operations were engaged in any illegal or unethical practices, and whether they continue to do so.”

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The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers, 250,000 in the meatpacking and poultry industries. UFCW members also work in the health care, garment, chemical, distillery and retail industries. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at http://www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, women advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

 

November 15, 2012

As Black Friday Approaches, Walmart Workers from Stores and Warehouses Begin to Strike

 1000-Store Protests Begin with Warehouse Workers from Southern California and Walmart Workers from Seattle and San Leandro Walking Off the Job

National Leaders, Local Activists Commit to Supporting Strikes, Protests and Online Actions

Washington, DC – As Black Friday approaches, Walmart workers and warehouse workers walked off the job Wednesday and Thursday in protest of the company’s attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs. Warehouse workers from Southern California walked off the job Wednesday morning; Walmart workers from San Leandro, California walked off the job Wednesday afternoon; and this morning, Walmart workers from Seattle joined them.

This afternoon, Walmart workers from cities across the country announced that these strikes are the first of 1000 protests, including more strikes, rallies and online actions, at Walmart stores leading up to and on Black Friday.  Workers announced upcoming strikes and protests in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Washington DC, as well as workers walking off the job in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana and Minnesota.  The group held off announcing the specific dates of the protest out of concern that Walmart would use it as an opportunity to try to silence the workers’ voices.

“No matter how hard we work, my husband and I can’t catch up on our bills,” said Charlene Fletcher, an OUR Walmart leader from Duarte, California.  Charlene and her husband Greg both work at Walmart. Greg has been there for six years, and Charlene began 2-1/2 years ago. They have two young children, ages 2 and 5.  “We just found out that we are both scheduled to work on Thanksgiving Day instead of being home with our kids.  It’s heartbreaking to miss the holiday with them, and it’s just one more way that Walmart is showing its disregard for our families. But when our co-workers speak out about problems like these, Walmart turns their schedules upside down, cuts their hours and even fires people. We’re going on strike for an end to Walmart’s attempts to silence its workers.”

The announcement call was hosted by OUR Walmart members: Charlene Fletcher, of Duarte (Los Angeles County), Calif., Sara Gilbert of Seattle, Wash., Colby Harris of Dallas, Tex., and Cayt Lawley in Arkansas. They were joined by David Garcia, a warehouse worker in Southern California, and Dan Schlademan, Director of the Making Change at Walmart campaign.

Walmart workers have been speaking out about the company’s manipulation of hours and benefits, efforts to try to keep people from working full-time and their discrimination against women and people of color, but rather than listening to the concerns facing 1.4 million Walmart workers, Walmart has attempted to silence them. Some workers have also been speaking out about the early start of Black Friday sales – on Thanksgiving Day –which will keep many retail workers from being able to spend the holiday with their families.  Watch a video from Walmart workers on why they’re standing up or follow the conversation on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.

With so many Americans struggling to make ends meet and Walmart taking in $16 billion in profits and compensating its executives $10 million each, workers and community leaders have been calling on Walmart and Chairman Rob Walton to address the wage gap the company is creating.  At the same time frontline Walmart workers are facing financial hardships, the Walton Family – heirs to the Walmart fortune – are the richest family in the country with more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

National leaders, including Dr. Julianne Malveaux and Lyle “Butch” Wing from Rainbow PUSH, joined the call to share their support for the striking workers.  Countless civil rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights and religious groups, including Color of Change, National Alliance of Latino, African and Caribbean Communities, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the National Organization of Women, are organizing their members in support of Walmart workers.  Online, individuals have been adding support and planning protests on their own, starting new Facebook pages, groups and events.  Through the Corporate Action Network, activists are “adopting” stores where they can inform shoppers about the struggles that Walmart workers are facing.

“Walmart’s workers are dedicated to giving 100 percent to the jobs that they do,” said Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change. “The company must be as dedicated to its workers as it is to its profit margin.”

In October, OUR Walmart leaders held the first-ever strikes against the mega-retailer.  At that time, workers walked off their jobs in more than 12 cities and with the support of national and local leaders, held protests at more than 200 stores. Since then, workers have walked off the job in Richmond, CA and Dallas, TX, and support for OUR Walmart, the associate organization calling for change, has continued to grow.

Striking warehouse workers, who move billions of dollars of merchandise for Walmart, joined the call to speak about the retaliation they have experienced for speaking out against unsafe working conditions, including extreme temperatures, broken and unsafe equipment and inadequate access to clean drinking water.  The workers from the Inland Empire, outside of Los Angeles, held a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs in September.

Energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and communities has been building.  In just one year, OUR Walmart, the unique workers’ organization founded by Walmart Associates, has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds of stores across 43 states. Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers, communities and our economy.

The alleged Mexican bribery scandal, uncovered by the New York Times, has shined a light on the failure of internal controls within Walmart that extend to significant breaches of compliance in stores and along the company’s supply chain.  The company is facing yet another gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 100,000 women in California and in Tennessee, and a wage theft class action suit in Chicago. In the company’s warehousing system, in which Walmart has continually denied responsibility for the working conditions for tens of thousands of people who work for warehouses where they move billions of dollars of goods, workers are facing rampant wage theft and health and safety violations so extreme that they have led to an unprecedented $600,000 in fines.   The Department of Labor fined a Walmart seafood supplier for wage and hour violations, and Human Rights Watch has spoken out about the failures of controls in regulating suppliers overseas, including a seafood supplier in Thailand where trafficking and debt bondage were cited.

Financial investors are also joining the call for Walmart to create better checks and balances, transparency and accountability that will protect workers and communities and strengthen the company.  At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Bentonville, OUR Walmart member Jackie Goebel brought a stadium full of shareholders to their feet applauding her call for an end to the short staffing that’s hurting workers and customer service.  Goebel was one of four Associate-shareholders who proposed a resolution calling for the reining in of executive pay. The resolution received unprecedented support from major pension funds that voted their shares against Walmart CEO and members of the board this June, amounting to a ten-fold increase and overall 1 in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership.

These widespread problems have also thwarted Walmart’s plans for growth, particularly in urban markets.  Calling the company a “bad actor,” New York City mayoral candidates have all been outspoken in their opposition to Walmart entering the city without addressing labor and community relations’ problems.  This month, the city’s largest developer announced an agreement with a union-grocery store at a site that Walmart had hoped would be its first location in New York. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidates are refusing to accept campaign donations from the deep pockets of Walmart, and in Boston, Walmart was forced to suspend its expansion into the city after facing significant community opposition.

 

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Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW), we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, community organizations, women’s advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country.

 

November 2, 2012

Richmond Walmart Workers Walk Off the Job

As Walmart Supercenter Holds Grand Re-Opening, Workers and Community Protest Attempts to Silence and Retaliate against Workers

Richmond, CaliforniaOn the heels of first-ever strikes by Walmart workers across the country, workers at the Walmart Supercenter in Richmond walked off the job this morning as the store held its grand re-opening.  Joined by community leaders who have been calling for changes at Walmart, workers are on strike in protest of the attempts to silence and retaliate against workers.  At the Richmond store, Walmart workers have been working hard to help the store reach today’s grand re-opening date all while facing illegal intimidation from a store manager, including racist remarks and threats of physical violence.

“We will not be silenced by Walmart for standing up for respect and against harassment, intimidation and retaliation,” said Mario Hammod, a worker at the Richmond Walmart.   Hammod is one of thousands of members of the national worker-led Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) that has been calling for changes at the company.  “In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez, I am taking a stand against Walmart’s illegal bullying tactics and practicing my right to peacefully hold a sit-in.  We want to be able to celebrate the store’s re-opening, but we cannot continue to work under these conditions of retaliation.”

In an expression of the building frustration that Walmart has not only ignored workers calls for change in Richmond and across the country, but actually retaliated against workers who do speak out, national leaders from civil rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights communities, religious institutions, unions and community leaders have committed to join striking workers in a wide range of non-violent activities on and leading up to Black Friday, including rallies, flash mobs, direct action and other efforts to inform customers about the illegal actions that Walmart has been taking against its workers.

“We cannot stand by while Walmart retaliates against workers who are standing up for a better future for their families,” said Rev. Phillip Lawson, Co-Founder of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

Rev. Lawson, along with other supporters and community groups across the country, has been calling for change through the Unified Call to Change Walmart. “Racist and threatening comments from Walmart will not be tolerated here in Richmond or anywhere.  Walmart should be creating good jobs, not threatening workers and turning its backs on the hard-working people that made this ribbon-cutting possible.”

Walmart workers in Richmond, CA on strike

The group protested outside the Supercenter with signs reading, “Stand Up, Live Better, Stop Retaliation” and “Stop Trying to Silence Us.” This comes just weeks after Walmart workers walked off the job in more than a dozen states, including stores in the East and South Bay. At the same time, workers went on strike at Walmart’s largest distribution center outside of Chicago, IL and were joined by hundreds of clergy and community supporters, some of who were arrested by riot police during the peaceful protest. And earlier this fall, workers in Walmart-controlled warehouses in Southern California went on a 15-day strike that included a six-day, 50-mile pilgrimage for safe jobs.

Walmart Associates at Richmond have been calling on management to end the retaliations against workers who speak out against harassment and poor working conditions, as well take home pay so low that many Associates are forced to rely on public programs to support their families and understaffing that is keeping workers from receiving sufficient hours and is also hurting customer service. As frontline Walmart workers face such hardships, the company is raking in almost $16 billion a year in profits, executives made more than $10 million each in compensation last year.  Meanwhile, the Walton Family – heirs to the Walmart fortune – is the richest family in the country with more wealth than the bottom 42% of American families combined.

Energy around the calls for Walmart to change its treatment of workers and communities has been building.  In just one year, OUR Walmart, the unique workers’ organization founded by Walmart Associates, has grown from a group of 100 Walmart workers to an army of thousands of Associates in hundreds of stores across 43 states. Together, OUR Walmart members have been leading the way in calling for an end to double standards that are hurting workers, communities and our economy.

The alleged Mexican bribery scandal, uncovered by the New York Times, has shined a light on the failure of internal controls within Walmart that extend to significant breaches of compliance in stores and along the company’s supply chain.  The company is facing yet another gender discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 100,000 women in California and in Tennessee.  In the company’s warehousing system, in which Walmart has continually denied responsibility for the working conditions for tens of thousands of people who work for warehouses where they move billions of dollars of goods, workers are facing rampant wage theft and health and safety violations so extreme that they have led to an unprecedented $600,000 in fines.   The Department of Labor fined a Walmart seafood supplier for wage and hour violations, and Human Rights Watch has spoken out about the failures of controls in regulating suppliers overseas, including a seafood supplier in Thailand where trafficking and debt bondage were cited.

Financial analysts are also joining the call for Walmart to create better checks and balances, transparency and accountability that will protect workers and communities and strengthen the company.  At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Bentonville, OUR Walmart member Jackie Goebel brought a stadium full of shareholders to their feet applauding her call for an end to the short staffing that’s hurting workers and customer service.  A resolution proposed by Associate-shareholders to rein in executive pay received unprecedented support, and major pension funds that voted their shares against Walmart CEO and members of the board this June amounting to a ten-fold increase, and overall 1 in 3 shares not held by the Walton family against the company’s leadership.

These widespread problems have also thwarted Walmart’s plans for growth, particularly in urban markets.  Calling the company a “bad actor,” New York City mayoral candidates have all been outspoken in their opposition to Walmart entering the city without addressing labor and community relations’ problems.  This month, the city’s largest developer announced an agreement with a union-grocery store at a site that Walmart had hoped would be its first location in New York. In Los Angeles, mayoral candidates are refusing to accept campaign donations from the deep pockets of Walmart, and in Boston, Walmart was forced to suspend its expansion into the city after facing significant community opposition.

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October 22, 2012

Walmart and its Temp Agencies Violate Federal, Illinois Labor Law

Class action suit alleges Chicago-area temp workers weren’t paid minimum wage or provided with proper employment notices

CHICAGO—Walmart Stores Inc. and its staffing agencies broke federal minimum wage and overtime laws by requiring temporary workers to appear early for work, stay late to complete work, work through lunches and breaks and participate in trainings without compensation, a class action suit filed Monday alleges. The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

Labor Ready and QPS, two of the staffing agencies Walmart uses in the Chicago area, failed to provide workers assigned to Walmart stores with information related to their employment, such as employment notices and proper wage payment notices as required by Illinois law.

Walmart itself failed to keep accurate records of workers’ time as required by federal and state law and has failed to provide workers with forms verifying hours worked. This made it impossible for workers to make claims that they were not paid by the temp agencies for all hours worked.

Walmart and its staffing agencies also failed to pay the plaintiffs and others in similar situations a minimum of four hours pay on days when they were contracted to work, but not utilized for a minimum of four hours, as required by Illinois law. This prevented the workers from seeking other work.

“I only get paid minimum wage and yet Labor Ready and Walmart still try to cheat me by not paying me for the time I actually work,” said Twanda Burk, the primary plaintiff on the lawsuit. “I’ve proven that I’m a good worker, and they just want to take advantage of that.”

The violations of state and federal law are alleged to have occurred in early 2009 and continuing up until the present time. In addition to seeking all unpaid wages for the workers, the suit calls for an injunction against Walmart and its temp agencies preventing them from future violations of state labor laws.

“There have been so many times I’ve been told to stay late after my shift to finish stocking the shelves, but I didn’t know they wouldn’t pay me for it,” said Anthony Wright, a temp worker at Labor Ready who has worked at a couple of the Walmart stores in the area since late last year.

Walmart contracts with staffing agencies for the services of hundreds of temporary laborers—many of whom earn minimum wage—in Chicago-area stores. The company has said it would hire 50,000 temporary workers to staff its stores for the upcoming holiday season.

“The practices that Walmart and its staffing agencies are engaging in are exactly why the Illinois legislature passed the Illinois Day and Temporary Services Act,” said Chris Williams, of Workers’ Law Office PC, the workers’ attorney. “Workers need critical information to make sure they don’t get cheated on their pay, as they did here. These workers are required to be paid for the time they’ve worked.”

Walmart got the green light to expand in Chicago when it committed to the Chicago city council to set starting wages at $8.75 per hour, however Walmart has failed to live up to its word to the people of Chicago.

Leone Jose Bicchieri, of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, who has been working to gain rights for agency temporary workers in Chicagoland for more than a decade, said, “Walmart has broken its promises in Chicago. It came into this city promising good, permanent jobs, but has reneged on this pledge. Instead of providing decent jobs with career potential and opportunities to access benefits, Walmart is outsourcing jobs to temp agencies that barely pay minimum wage with no benefits and who has broken multiple Illinois labor laws.”

Elce Redmond, the Executive Director of the South Austin Community Coalition, said, “By outsourcing these jobs, the company is taking advantage of Chicago residents in neighborhoods that had hoped Walmart would provide real employment opportunities, not the dead-end jobs that keep residents in a cycle of poverty.”

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Making Change at Walmart is a movement of community leaders, elected officials, civil rights and immigrant organizations, religious leaders, women’s organizations, Walmart associates, small business owners and members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union challenging Walmart to help rebuild the economy, starting with America’s families. (www.ChangeWalmart.org)

 

 

October 16, 2012

Carharrt Releases “Made in America Line” and Continues its Dedication to the American Worker

The rugged apparel brand Carharrt has newly released a “Made in America Line”.  This exciting news is part of a national movement to bring manufacturing, especially textiles, back to the USA.  Currently, less than 2% of the clothing available for purchase in our country is actually made here.

A video released by Carharrt talks about the new line of products made in America, in which all all items are designed in Michigan and produced in their Tennessee and Kentucky plants, but also highlights the fact that, in the 123 years since Carharrt began, they have never stopped manufacturing here.  Employees in the video note that one of the company’s mottos is “for the American worker” which it exemplifies by providing good jobs, including over 900 jobs to UFCW members.  The overall idea expressed in the short film is that America was not made by men in suits behind a desk, but workers getting down and dirty to build our country.

Watch the video below or by clicking here.

October 4, 2012

America’s Retail Union Stands with Striking Walmart Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — America’s retail union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), stands in strong solidarity with Walmart workers in Southern California who have gone on strike.

Thousands of Walmart associates across the country have joined together in OUR Walmart, a worker-led organization that stands up to make change in their company. For more than a year now, associates have been working together for a company that pays a living wage, provides affordable health care, is a contributing member of communities and treats their associates with respect. Instead of listening and working with OUR Walmart members, Walmart has retaliated against workers and tried to silence them.

On Thursday, October 4, these workers responded to Walmart’s refusal to treat its employees with fairness by going on strike at several Los Angeles-area stores. The strike is a protest of Walmart’s attempts to silence and retaliate against associates who speak out.

Today’s actions by Walmart associates are part of a growing movement of Walmart workers who are standing together and taking action.  Workers at Walmart-controlled warehouse and distribution centers in California and Illinois struck their employers over the last two weeks to demand an end to retaliation for speaking out for real change at work.

“The more than a million members of the UFCW across America know the need for real change at Walmart,” said Joe Hansen, International President of the UFCW. “We’re incredibly proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these courageous associates who are taking action to demand that Walmart workers can, and should, be able to speak out for real change without fear of retaliation.”

To join with UFCW members and supporters from across the country and stand up for the rights of Walmart workers, click here or sign the petition of support below.

“Making a change for the better at America’s largest retailer can improve America’s middle class, America’s economy and America’s most common job,” said Hansen. “These brave workers have lit a fire for justice at Walmart that will be hard to extinguish.”

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) represents more than 1.3 million workers, primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries. The UFCW protects the rights of workers and strengthens America’s middle class by fighting for health care reform, living wages, retirement security, safe working conditions and the right to unionize so that working men and women and their families can realize the American Dream. For more information about the UFCW’s effort to protect workers’ rights and strengthen America’s middle class, visit www.ufcw.org, or join our online community at www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational and www.twitter.com/ufcw.

September 19, 2012

An American Worker: Eno Awotoye

“The American Worker – A Look at the American Worker in 2012” is Current.com’s recent series of spotlights on today’s hardworking Americans, ranging from auto workers and school workers to baristas, administrators, and caregivers.  Each installment in the series focuses on one such worker, giving a quick look at biographical info, including salary, and detailing each person’s relationship with their job.  We thought this was a great resource, and honest glimpse into the highs and lows of real jobs today.

One of the bios that intrigued us the most was that of Eno Awotoye, a Vendor Selling Specialist at Macy’s Herald Square.  As a unionized retail worker, Eno makes a good salary at 21.50 an hour, plus bonuses. Originally from Nigeria, she now lives in the Bronx, and enjoys great employee benefits including vacation, paid sick days/paid time off, medical & vision & dental insurance, and 401k with employer matching. Below, Eno answers questions from Current.com: 

– What worries you the most about your job? What worries you most about your life outside of work?
“At work, I want to make sure that our union stays strong and that no anti-worker legislation is passed. Outside of work, I want to focus on my personal growth, and how to find time to continue to do art.”

– Are you in a union? Does your industry have unions? Do you think your industry should unionize?
“Yes, I’m a member of RWDSU’s Local 1-S (Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union) at Macy’s on 34th Street in Manhattan. Unfortunately, only about 4 percent of the retail industry is unionized, and I think it should be much higher.”

– What is your proudest career accomplishment?
“My proudest career accomplishment has been being able to take what I’ve learned from almost 20 years of working at Macy’s to help other retail workers. I teach free customer service training classes, as well as professional sales classes such as building client books, visual merchandising, fine jewelry, etc., to retail workers seeking better jobs in this economy. Through this, I’m able to help folks who work in an industry with a lot of job growth get better jobs, while teaching them about their rights on the job.”

-If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be? (More flexible hours, better benefits, higher salary, better job security, pension plan, etc)
“I get all of the benefits listed above at my job because of our union contract, but most non-union retail workers don’t get these benefits. What I wish is that I can help workers get these basic protections and benefits at their jobs.”

Because she and her co-workers are about sticking together in their union and improving their workplace, Eno has many benefits that non-union retail employees may not.  We think it is awesome that she works hard to help other retail workers who aren’t yet as fortunate, to teach them skills and inspire them to come together for their rights on the job.  Although only a small percentage of retail workers currently enjoy good jobs like Eno’s at Macy’s, if we all stick together we can work for a brighter  future for workers.

September 6, 2012

Longest Serving Employee in Macy’s History Retires After 73 Years on the Job!

Can you imagine working in the days when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House and the biggest movie at the box-office was The Wizard of Oz?

Rose Syracuse Photo credit: CRAIG WARGA/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Rose Syracuse, can do you one better, because she was actually living those moments.  The 92-year old has been working for a whopping 73 years at the Macy’s Herald Square flagship store in New York City.  Rose, also a member of RWDSU Local 1-S, is now announcing her retirement.

Rose has been a member of Local 1-S for most of her life; in fact, there has never been a time when Local 1-S existed without her membership! Rose was there to witness the birth of the union at Macy’s, and all of the changes that have impacted retail workers since.

Starting as a 17-year-old, Rose entered the Macy’s workforce during a difficult economy, similar to today’s, when America was still feeling the effects of the great depression, and embroiled in World War II.  During that time, Rose and her co-workers received a mere $14 per 48-hour work week.

However, after marching through the store, as well as down the streets through the bitter cold, Rose and the others were able to unionize, knowing it would bring about better conditions. They may not have known it at the time, but this victory was one that would benefit the Macy’s workers that came after them for generations and generations.

Speaking with RWDSU, Rose pointed out that “the union fights for you.  They really help you. Otherwise how could you do it all by yourself? Nobody would listen to you.” We couldn’t agree more. Rose’s statement reminds us that the point of a union has not changed from 73 years ago: when sticking together, we have a voice that will be listened to.

We’d like to thank Rose for all she has done- serving at Macy’s, and of course laying the ground work for labor movements for years to come.  We hope she will now enjoy her well-deserved retirement!

August 24, 2012

Millennials Find Themselves in Retail, and it’s not Going so Well

If you’re a young millennial today, you’re working in retail.

In a study published this week by Generation Y research firm Millennial Branding in conjunction with PayScale, it was found that the most common job among Millennials, or Generation Y, is sales representative or merchandise displayer.  Not only were these the most common among this generation, but Millennials are five times more likely to hold these jobs, in comparison to all workers.

There would not be anything wrong with this, except the fact that these positions tend to be among the lowest paid jobs.

According to a recent article from USA TODAY, “for an age group struggling with a poor job outlook and hefty student loans, many settle for retail while they look for jobs in their preferred field”, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner at Millennial Branding. “A lot of them will end up in these retail jobs while applying for professional jobs and hoping there’ll be openings,” he says.

The study of 500,000 worker profiles shows that over half of merchandise displayers have a Bachelors Degree, and 83% of clothing sales associates have them as well.

The bad job economy has resulted in many similar cases, where recent graduates are forced to retain retail jobs they previously held while in school, or otherwise.  It is unfortunate that millennials cannot find work in the fields they spend thousands of dollars to be educated in, but what’s worse is that the retail jobs they move into, cannot support a living wage most of the time.  This is not just true for millennials, but for countless others who work in retail, struggling to make a living.

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young workers sticking together

Stagnating wages and income inequality are ever-growing issues in our country.  Workers who are overworked, underpaid and do not have any job security or benefits are all too commonplace. The fear of not being able to pay the bills, getting sick, or getting fired at any moment is plaguing workers in an industry that will become the backbone of the American economy.

So, what can we do about?  We can all take a stand by supporting retailers who provide solid-work schedules, and paychecks and benefits that pay the bills.

Although many millennials see their retail jobs as a transition job, or stepping stone to something bigger, many will end up staying where they are.  That’s why its more important than ever to stick together and advocate for what’s right.  Union workers at retailers like Macys, H&M, Modells, and Bloomingdales already know that having a union voice on the job means they’ll be compensated and treated in a way that reflects their hard work. They’re able to bargain the middle class wages and health care benefits they earn and deserve.

With a union on the job, empowered retail workers can bolster the growing service industry and re-create the modern middle class that workers had in the past, and what we certainly need now.