Contract Negotiations for 4,300 Macy’s Workers Cause Debate

From WWD.com Union workers in four Macy’s stores will be negotiating a new contract, despite many unknowns related to the pandemic shutdown. Union workers at four New York area Macy’s stores will soon be negotiating a new contract despite the many unknowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. At issue is the contract for 4,300 Macy’s employees in four locations — Herald Square, Queens Center Mall, Parkchester in the Bronx and White Plains in Westchester County — which will expire next month, according to the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union’s president, Stuart Appelbaum. Their contract first expired May 1, but it had an automatic 45-day extension clause. Macy’s has since agreed to a two-week extension, which means the expiration date is June 30. Initially union officials proposed a one-year contract extension and then a six-month one, due to the pandemic. Macy’s declined such lengthy extensions because of the number of contracts the retailer needs to negotiate next year, according to Appelbaum. A Macy’s spokeswoman did not address that specifically Wednesday. “We are absolutely amazed that Macy’s is insisting on negotiating now,” he said. “All of the stores in New York are still closed. They don’t know when they are going to reopen. None of their employees are working. We don’t know what the stores are going to look like or how they’re going to operate when they reopen.” The three main areas of concern are the safety of employees and union members, COVID-19/pandemic response and employee recall, the union leader said. Appelbaum said RWDSU members are worried about going back to work, based on what he alleged are “inadequate” procedures that have been put in place at other Macy’s stores that have reopened. Requiring employees to wear masks, but not requiring customers to wear them is one example, Appelbaum said. Asked for comment, a Macy’s spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday, “We believe that Macy’s Inc. offers a great work environment with fair pay and good benefits. We continue to request dates for bargaining with the RWDSU Local 1-S in good faith. We believe the union should come to the table on behalf of its members and remain committed to pursuing an agreement that is fair to all parties. There are always unknowns in collective bargaining negotiations. The union and Macy’s both have the obligation to forecast, as best as possible, how to resolve those unknowns and build in contingencies for future events. Macy’s is simply seeking to comply with its duty to bargain prior to the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement.” The statement continued, “Additionally, Macy’s top priority is the safety and security of its colleagues and customers. We are following the CDC’s recommended everyday preventative measures, as well as all local and state orders, in accordance with New York State On Pause, and have continued to offer bargaining via a web-based platform of the union’s choosing, or conference call.” Appelbaum claimed that Macy’s had proposed that the union’s 36-person negotiating committee attend an in-person meeting in Manhattan. The Macy’s spokeswoman did not address that question directly via e-mail. Appelbaum questioned the safety aspect of meeting in person, since attendees would need to use public transportation to get there and that a lot of them are “in vulnerable categories” health-wise. From a contract standpoint, RWDSU officials and members are concerned that if older, diabetic and other vulnerable workers do not immediately return to work, when asked to, that they could lose their jobs. Appelbaum said when Macy’s needed a few workers to come back to retrieve some merchandise from the Herald Square store (due allegedly to limited merchandise in the distribution center), those workers were selected by seniority on a volunteer basis. “What we’re concerned about is that that continues as they recall people,” he said. The union provided an update to Local 1-S members Tuesday highlighting some of the challenges it perceives would make negotiations difficult now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Negotiations are expected to start before the end of the month but they will not be conducted in person, the union said. Macy’s plans to host its annual Fourth of July fireworks is another point of consternation for the RWDSU leader, even though the fireworks were strongly defended by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Wouldn’t it be nice if they spent the $6 million [the estimated expense for the fireworks] on their own workforce? That would be a much better way to show their support to New York City,” he claimed. The Macy’s spokeswoman declined to comment regarding the Fourth of July fireworks.

Amazon Denies Responsibility As Worker Deaths Mount

Amazon, the world's largest retailer, is powerful and with great power comes great responsibility. Responsible power is accompanied by transparency and especially when you have staff deaths.  The CEO  of Amazon Jeff Bezos will be a trillioniare by 2026. That's the approximate worth of Amazon as a corporation in 2020. Workers' health and safety have taken a backdoor to profit margins. The greatest example of this is Amazon already cutting off recently granted $2 raises to it's employees. read more here

Worker Assembly Event on May 21

The event will be held on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/239436240659973/

The Fight for Workplace Safety

he U.S. Department of Labor is giving employers workplace safety suggestions, rather than clear regulations and rules for their enforcement. Some states have tried to fill the vacuum. Meanwhile, workers themselves, supported by unions and advocacy organizations like the National COSH (Council for Occupational Safety and Health), are demanding safer workplaces in this new pandemic environment. Here are some of their stories. Farmworkers in Oregon “I tried to get my employer to follow social distancing, clean the bathrooms, and sanitize. . . . I was also worried because the employer did not have a mask for sick people. But when I spoke up, they just ignored me and then they got mad at me for making problems. Now I am worried that I might be one of the first ones laid off. I need this job for my family.” (A farmworker’s statement to Oregon OSHA in support of new COVID-19 regulations, April 3, 2020.) read more at progressive.org

Union president blasts President Trump's meatpacking plant move as 'outrageous'

When President Trump signed an executive order last week to keep meat processing facilities open amid the coronavirus pandemic, many people rejoiced since it meant there would be no disruption to the food supply chain. But Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union — which represents workers in food processing, retail, and light manufacturing industries — lambasted the move.  “That decision was outrageous and was the wrong thing to do,” Appelbaum told Yahoo Finance. “What President Trump’s action does is to require plants to stay open, even if there are serious reasons for them to be closed by state or other authorities when a plant is closed for the purposes of deep cleaning and protecting the safety and lives of working people. And Trump is saying he’s not going to allow that to happen. It’s the wrong decision because the best way to protect the food chain is to protect the safety of the workers.” read more here

Working Life Podcast: Trump Wants To Kill Beef & Poultry Workers

Listen Here It is quite something to hear the elites in Washington—especially Republican members of Congress and the menace in the White House—blather on about wanting to wait to see how well the previous, inadequate fiscal stimulus works before deciding whether to do anything else. That’s while tens of millions of people are in the streets, huge lines of hungry people form every day across the nation and states and cities are on the brink of financial ruin. States and cities not only employ collectively millions of people but, my god, their services—from education to just picking up the garbage—are damn essential. And you don’t need a computer to get that with the economy shut down and people sheltering at home, revenue to the states through incomes taxes and other taxes has nosedived. It’s just around the corner, folks: when there are gaps in local budgets, especially at the state level, they are coming after us with cuts pretty quickly to our services, our pensions and our communities. I welcome back Meg Wiehe, deputy director of the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, to wrap our minds around this: Congress should make up any shortfalls states and cities face—and we should use this crisis to also fix the decades-long, deeply crazy, screwed up ideology that skimped on strong government in favor of low taxes for the rich and corporations. Then, I circle back to what’s happening with poultry, hog and meat processing workers in a conversation with, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Stores Union, as we focus mainly about the crazed notion of forcing plants to open up even if COVID-19 is raging through the workplace.

Worker at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse dies of coronavirus, advocates demand shutdown

“For a long time now, workers at JFK8 and other Amazon facilities around the world have been demanding safer working conditions — especially during this pandemic,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “Yesterday’s death unfortunately has shown the true cost of Amazon’s failure to provide a safe work environment.” read the story at the NY Daily News

STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM ON AMAZON WORKER DEATH

(NEW YORK, NY) – Yesterday, a worker at Amazon’s JFK8 facility in Staten Island, New York died of COVID-19. Amazon warehouse workers across the country have been protesting since March the company’s lack of safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement: “Yesterday’s death of a worker at Amazon’s Staten Island facility is especially tragic. Nobody should have to put their life at risk when they go to work. They need to know that their employer is providing them a safe work environment - but Amazon has failed to do that. “For a long time now, workers at JFK8 and other Amazon facilities around the world have been demanding safer working conditions - especially during this pandemic. Yesterday’s death unfortunately has shown the true cost of Amazon’s failure to provide a safe work environment.“Amazon must immediately close the Staten Island, New York facility and disinfect it. What the company claims it is doing is obviously not working. In order to protect its employees, there must be independent monitoring in all Amazon facilities, and not just empty promises. We cannot afford any further loss of life at Amazon facilities anywhere.”

New Yorkers deserve more from Macy’s than fireworks

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Amsterdam News Macy’s announcement that it wanted to go ahead with its July 4th fireworks display in the midst of this pandemic should be disturbing to all New Yorkers for several reasons. Macy’s should not be spending millions on fireworks after laying off its entire workforce. Most of their employees cannot even afford health care coverage at this time. Many Macy’s employees have worked for the company for decades, and now they are on the street with nothing from their employer. Furthermore, they are putting New Yorkers at risk unnecessarily––in order to use our city as a backdrop for their nationally televised commercial for themselves. Most New Yorkers don’t have balconies overlooking the East River. The last thing we want to do is to encourage people to come together in large groups in order to see fireworks. Social distancing at the fireworks display is a joke. That is why Mayor de Blasio rightfully cancelled other large events for the entire month of June, including the Pride Parade which would have been held just a few days before. If Macy’s really cares about New Yorkers, they should be spending that money on healthcare coverage for their hardworking New York employees. That would be the real way to show your patriotism. But that’s not even the worst of it. What is even more outrageous is that Macy’s is insisting on holding contract negotiations in the midst of Gov. Cuomo’s “stay at home” order. Yes, the contract between Macy’s and its workers’ union is expiring soon. The stores are closed, nobody is working, and neither party has any clue what the future will hold. How do you negotiate in good faith when the company is unable to tell you when each store will reopen or how it will reopen, or for what hours and with what staffing needs? And nobody has any clue what customer traffic will look like when New York’s economy does begin to re-open. Macy’s even suggested having the three dozen members of the union’s negotiating committee travel from all over New York City to Manhattan for face-to-face negotiations at the beginning of May––in defiance of Gov. Cuomo’s “stay at home” order. As we have done elsewhere, we have proposed postponing negotiations and extending the current contract until both sides will have some sense of what the future will look like and what we will be negotiating for. We suggested extending the current contract for a year, and Macy’s said “no.” We then suggested extending the contract for at least six months, and Macy’s again said “no.” So why is Macy’s insisting on negotiating now? It simply appears that they are trying to take advantage of this current crisis for their own ends. It defies common sense to insist these negotiations go on in the coming weeks. Workers cannot adequately prepare for contract negotiations with so many unknowns. Nor is there any serious need to do it now. We are all adapting to our new reality as New York responds to this crisis. Macy’s needs to adapt to this reality now. Just as it shouldn’t be promising a fireworks show that encourages New Yorkers to gather in crowds to enjoy it, Macy’s shouldn’t pretend that it’s business as usual when it comes to these negotiations. This “pause” is for everybody Macy’s, even you. Stuart Appelbaum is president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (www.rwdsu.org; Twitter: @sappelbaum).

Trump's Executive Order Draws Union Responses

Also responding to Trump’s executive order was Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “We only wish that this administration cared as much about the lives of working people as it does about meat, pork and poultry products,” Applebaum said in a statement. “When poultry plants shut down, it's for deep cleaning and to save workers' lives. If the administration had developed meaningful safety requirements early on as they should have and still must do, this would not even have become an issue. Employers and government must do better. If they want to keep the meat and poultry supply chain healthy, they need to make sure that workers are safe and healthy.” read the story here