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Workers at Babeland Unanimously Ratify First Contract

Today, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU-UFCW), newly unionized Babeland workers, unanimously ratified their first contract. Babeland, a mission-driven, queer-owned sex toy boutique, and the RWDSU-UFCW, the largest retail worker’s union in the world, reached agreement for a contract last week, covering the company’s Sex Educators and Retail Sales Associates who work in three New York stores. Under the new contract, workers will receive general wage increases and adjustments, as well as signing bonuses and post-probationary wage increases. Most significantly, it’s the first union contract that includes added safety and security trainings and protocols to protect Babeland’s predominately LGBTQ and women workforce in this highly emotionally intimate industry.

“This is the only workforce in this industry that is unionized, I think that’s significant,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union (RWDSU). “The provisions negotiated in this contract sets a standard for protecting LGBTQ workers in this and many workplaces across the country. I am proud of the Babeland workers and their tenacious work to ensure all of their co-workers have the safety measures and training they need.”

“We want to be a collaborative and progressive workplace,” said Rachel Venning, Babeland co-founder. “Having a union will help with that. Throughout the bargaining process we offered transparency about the company’s finances, decision-making and future prospects. Babeland’s starting wage was already $14 an hour, higher than many other retailers, in acknowledgement of the expertise involved in the work. We want our staff to feel fairly paid and empowered and the contract helps with that.”

“In organizing with the RWDSU, we were able to do together what we never could have done alone,” said, Phoenix Casino, Receiver at the Babeland Mercer location. “Not only do we have a greater sense of solidarity on the sales floor, but we now also have health benefits through the union, a service that many of us have a dire need for. We were able to improve the quality of our lives both in and out of the shop, an accomplishment that we only could have reached with collective action.”

“Solidifying access to better wages and benefits at Babeland will improve the quality of our lives,” said Alexa Lambertis, Sex Educator/Sales Associate at the Babeland Mercer location. “As a queer woman of color, I am especially proud of accomplishing this through collective action – and I am pleased to see our company prosper through solidarity.”

 

“Working for a company that recognizes the particular needs of the LGBTQ workforce in this industry is empowering. The history of unions is inherently tied into the rights of women, queers, and those most marginalized,” said Octavia Wheeler, Sex Educator/Sales Associate at the Babeland Rivington location.

“Our concerns have been heard,” said Julian Goldhagen, Sex Educator/Sales Associate at the Babeland Rivington location. “To have management’s support means a lot to me and my co-workers. We now have increased communication which is so important to creating a positive work environment.”

“This is a great achievement for Babeland’s workers, for Babeland, and for Brooklyn. Props to Babeland's workers, who found the courage to organize together, to the retail worker’s union (RWDSU), and to Babeland co-owners Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning for signing a contract that will insure that more workers have access to health-care,” said, Brad Lander, 39th District Council Member. “Babeland has been a part of our community and New York’s queer/sex-positive/progressive community for almost 20 years. As the Trump regime undermines labor rights, health-care, and dignity, this is a great reminder that we can make progress by organizing together.”

 

“The wage increases that the Babeland workers will receive will help ensure they can build a sustainable livelihood,” said, Margaret Chin, 1st District Council Member. “When workers earn a living-wage and have job protections and security they feel a sense of stability that only helps companies thrive in our community.”

 

“When LGBTQ workers come together, it is clear that our community's particular issues can be protected by a strong contract—like the one negotiated by the Babeland workers,” said Daniel Dromm, 25th District Council Member. “This is the first union contract that includes provisions to help the LGBTQ community and I applaud the workers for fighting to ensure that they have the needed training and protocols in place to protect their safety on the job. I want to also recognize Babeland for their commitment to remaining an important part of NYC's LGBTQ, sex-positive community—as demonstrated by this contract agreement.”

 

Contract provisions include:

-Company-sponsored, union-provided health benefits, that will extend to more employees.

-More workers will be offered 30+ hours per week.

-There will be three raises over the next ten months.

-The contract now solidifies scheduling protections including minimum shift lengths, and there will be increased communication between management and employees on scheduling.

-Safety and security trainings and protocols.

-Minimum staffing requirements.

-Through a newly established Labor-Management Committee there will be More involvement for employees in hiring new managers.

-The employer will make efforts to advertise job openings in traditionally marginalized communities.

Job security and protections.