Activists, Workers, Elected Officials Rally at H&M for a Fair Contract

Today, with an expired contract, 1,500 unionized H&M workers at locations across Manhattan ramped up their campaign for a fair new contract. After months of negotiations, it was clear to the union that the company was not bargaining with any real intent to secure a new contract. A number of elected officials joined H&M retail professionals, who are members of Local 1102 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), at the Herald Square Flagship location – the largest H&M store in the world, to rally for essential scheduling provisions that would eliminate “clopenings”, give part-time workers a minimum of 14-18 hours a week and the right to time off after five consecutive days worked, among many other fair union demands. “Our members used to be proud to work for H&M, but their utter disregard for their workers, which we’ve seen deteriorate over months of negotiations tells a different story. Forcing low-wage workers into a schedule that can only provide poverty level wages with no ability to work a needed second job is disgusting. We cannot stand for it, we will not stand for it, and we will fight until we secure a fair new contract for the over 1,500 workers we represent at H&M,” said Alvin Ramnarain, President of Local 1102 of the RWDSU. “When a global company such as H & M treats employees in New York worse than their employees in their home country and elsewhere around the world, they are insulting all New Yorkers. Their refusal to address serious scheduling issues is a huge mistake as well as a bad business decision. H & M wants the benefit of being in the New York market - but it is treating its New York employees as second-class workers. We will not tolerate that,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “I travel over an hour to get to work everyday. When I heard that H&M wanted to reinstate a banned practice of ‘clopenings’, which would require that I get less than 5 hours of sleep a night I was outraged. Working at H&M has been a good job over the past 12 years, but if they instate these horrendous scheduling practices I won’t be able to provide for my family and I will need to seek other employment,” said Khadejiah Legrier an H&M Sales Associate. “As Washington moves to erode our progress for workers' rights, we in New York City stand together to fight back,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “New York’s workers power this city, and we will do everything we can to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect – for H&M, that means guaranteeing its workers a fair contract. Thank you to our partners at RWDSU for their tireless commitment to advancing and protecting the rights of working people in our city and across the country. “Every worker in our City deserves to be paid well and treated well,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “It is clear that H&M must demonstrate this basic principle by coming to the table to negotiate health benefits, work hours, and a fair contract that we demand of New York businesses. I thank RWDSU and Local 1102 for leading the fight to protect our workers and uplift our families and I strongly urge H&M to act in good faith. “Unpredictable work schedules force workers to scramble to find child care and elder care, arrange transportation, re-schedule other jobs and cancel classes. It's unfair, unstable and catastrophic for workers and families. As the sponsor of legislation to restrict on-call scheduling and protect workers, I am proud to stand behind RWDSU workers in their fight for job stability, fair treatment and peace of mind,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan). “As a former union organizer, I understand firsthand that it is through good faith collective bargaining that unions are able to ensure workers have access to fundamental benefits that make their time at work more productive. With access to health benefits and guaranteed work hours, workers have just a few less stresses to think about as they go about their productive day at work. It is a shame that H&M simply does not see it the same way. By failing to bargain in good faith, H&M is not only letting down their workers, but they are once again letting down families and their customers,” said State Senator Marisol Alcántara. Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried said, “H&M should bargain with its workers in good faith and negotiate a fair contract with good health benefits and guaranteed hours.” “New York State is one of the top 5 states with the highest number of retail sales workers. I am proud to support H&M employees and all Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) workers who want a fair contract providing fair schedules and affordable healthcare.  The strength of our entire retail workforce is only as strong as the protections of an individual retail worker’s quality of life,” said Assembly Member Rebecca A. Seawright.  Assemblyman William Colton (D-Brooklyn) says, “I stand with RWSDU and all workers in their fight to obtain fair scheduling, guaranteed work hours and health benefits. The fiber of our economy is our workers; treating them fairly is a moral obligation.”   “I am saddened that H&M won’t negotiate in good faith for basic worker rights, such as guaranteed hours and health benefits.   I’m asking that they come to the table and negotiate in good faith,” said Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Queens).   “Workers deserve access to a dependable schedule, so they can manage child care, doctors’ appointments, and even the ability to budget effectively – all things that are nearly impossible with a schedule always in flux,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “A measly eight hours guaranteed is unacceptable and leads to significant income insecurity. I stand in solidarity with union retail workers as they fight for reasonable schedules and affordable health benefits.”   H&M cannot afford to weaken a workforce so devoted to customer service, especially when the company faces greater competition in the market from new foreign fast-fashion stores opening up every day. These talented employees create a unique shopping experience for countless customers, and they play an irreplaceable role in driving the positive image, brand, and profitability of H&M as a global company. When workers are respected and empowered, they are happier on the job, and can do more to improve the shopping experience for customers, which leads to increased sales and higher profit, giving H&M an edge over competitors.     Top Five Demands of the Company by the Union Include: Guaranteed Part- Time Hours: The union has proposed a minimum guarantee of between 14 to18 hours per week for all part-time employees who want to work that much. But H&M has said they wish to guarantee ONLY 8 working hours per week. 8 hours barely covers worker’s subway trips, and, above all, because H&M is demanding that workers have open availability Friday through Sunday, they are essentially shutting workers out of a needed second job.   Eliminating “Clopenings”: “Clopenings” must stop. The union has proposed a minimum of 10.5 hours rest time between workers closing and opening shifts. It may take a worker hours to get home at night, and then they have to turn around and return early the next morning to open the store. This does not provide for any work‐life balance, which H&M claims as one of its values.   No More Than 5 Consecutive Days Worked: The Committee has proposed to eliminate employees being scheduled for more than five consecutive days worked. Currently, some employees are sometimes scheduled 6 to 8 days in a row without a scheduled day off. Workers should not be forced to work more than five consecutive days, unless they choose to pick up more shifts. H&M doesn’t see the issue that many workers have reported as a problem to the union.   Dental Insurance & Eyeglasses: Many workers lack dental and vision insurance. The union has proposed no‐cost dental and vision insurance for all H&M employees through a Local 1102 RWDSU sponsored plan. The cost to the company is a measly $5 per person per month. H&M refuses to make this extremely minimal investment to provide workers a benefit, which will get them a free pair of glasses and up to $1,500 in dental work per year. 50 Cents/Hour In Longevity Pay For Senior Employees: The Committee has proposed an additional, hourly increase of $.50 cents for senior employees who have worked at H&M for 3 years or more. The sad thing is that H&M agrees with us that veteran employees should get this money – however, they do not want to guarantee it in the contract and has demanded the ability to use their “management discretion” to give it to some people that they like, but not others. The above proposals will cost H&M very little money and the majority of them don’t cost the company a dime. But the company just won’t make even a basic adjustment to the way they do the SCHEDULE to improve workers lives, and yet they claim to “believe in people.”  

Statement on SCOTUS Janus Decision

STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM     “At a time when working people continue to struggle, our government and the courts should be supporting stronger unions, not working to undermine them. This decision is nothing more than a thinly-veiled political attack on public unions. Despite this decision, a reinvigorated labor movement will continue to help workers organize and use their constitutionally-guaranteed union voice. Strong unions remain the only way workers can guarantee better jobs and better lives,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

New York Primary Night Statement

Members Across New York State Worked Tirelessly in Support of Securing Congressional Primary Wins for RWDSU Endorsed Candidates – Union Narrows in on November Election   NEW YORK, NY – Today, President Stuart Appelbaum of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) thanked members across New York who worked to secure Primary Wins in key Congressional races. The RWDSU’s political work will continue across the country as we head into the mid-term elections in November.     “Working people need strong advocates in Washington, D.C. We count on members of Congress to stand up and fight for our rights. And we are proud to support candidates who understand that working women and men are the foundation of our society; workers need to be treated with dignity, justice and respect. I am proud of the work our members did to ensure victory tonight in so many key Congressional Primaries across the state. Our work continues as we head into the November General Elections and the RWDSU will be standing with candidates across the country to ensure candidates who put working people first are elected,”said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).  

Pleasure Chest Workers Strike on Pride Day

Today the RWDSU members at The Pleasure Chest New York walked out on strike during the #NYCPrideParade! They were also invited to marched in the parade with Senator Brad Hoylman, Senator Diane J. Savino and RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. THANK YOU to everyone at #Pride who came to express their support! Workers' rights are gay rights!  

NYC Councilmember Francisco Moya and NYS Assemblymember Aridia Espinal: True stories of salon and car wash workers show cruelty of subminimum wage

Laboring long hours in grueling conditions merits standard base pay plus tips As lifelong New Yorkers who have had the privilege to serve in the state Assembly and the City Council, we have observed first-hand how difficult it is to work in car washes, where employees, largely immigrants and people of color, must toil for long hours just to make ends meet. These workers, who have historically been victims of wage theft and other wage and hour violations, deserve to make at least the minimum wage. But state regulations allow car wash owners to pay their workers less than the state minimum wage.This is unfair and must end. Continue reading

Statement from RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum on Major ICE Raid of RWDSU Plant in Ohio

ICE Raids on Fresh Mark Plants Unconscionable – Union Will Not Tolerate Egregious Action  NEW YORK, NY – Yesterday, in an egregious show of force by the Trump Administration, the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided three Fresh Mark meat-processing plants in Ohio, represented by the RWDSU. 2,800 people come to these three plants every day to work, but yesterday 140 were detained and separated from their scared families. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union responded: “We are outraged by the actions of Donald Trump. 140 people couldn't go home to their families last night, and their children were left on their own to fend for themselves – that is unconscionable. Yesterday, Donald Trump sent in ICE agents to separate hard working immigrant families in an egregious show of force. Our union is a union of hard working people, which includes immigrants; and we stand with all immigrant workers, who are trying to support their families and better their lives. Our union will not stand for violence against immigrants; we will not stand for tearing families apart and we will not stand for the terrifying tactics of the Trump Administration. The RWDSU is committed to assisting workers affected by this ICE raid and will continue to fight against any and all heartless attacks on immigrant workers seeking to provide for their families,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.     Continue reading

Workers Tell Their Stories at Tip Credit Hearing and Rally

RWDSU members testified today at Department of Labor hearings in the Bronx, New York, as workers and activists gathered beforehand to call for an end to the so-called “tip credit.” Car wash workers are among those affected by regulations which allow employers to pay sub-minimum wages in many industries, under the supposition that tips will make up and exceed the difference. In reality, the policy can act as a vehicle for wage theft, leaving workers earning poverty wages below the minimum wage. Workers told their stories at the hearings and the rally, explaining how the tip-credit system creates uncertainty and sub-minimum wage pay.

Nursing Home Workers In Scranton, PA, Win Union Voice

The RWDSU has scored another major nursing home victory, this time at Mountain View Care & Rehab Center in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  A unit of 76 certified nursing assistant employees remained united and overwhelmingly voted 35-2 to be represented by the RWDSU.  The RWDSU currently represents hundreds of nursing home employees in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.   The Mountain View employees began organizing less than a month ago.  They wanted to make improvements in their benefits and have a voice in negotiating their working conditions.  Danielle Albano, a certified nursing assistant and organizing committee member, said, “we wanted nothing more than to better our future and make change at our facility.  We united together on all shifts and quickly organized as a cohesive group around job security, a voice in the work place, dignity and respect and most important of all continuing to give quality care to our residents.”   “When we first me these Mountain View employees, I knew that they had concerns over their wages and benefits that needed to be addressed,” said RWDSU Organizer Paul Bazemore.  “The workers quickly created a strong, vocal and outspoken organizing committee representing all shifts.  The committee truly did an amazing Job.  They organized their facility within weeks.   The worker’s negotiation committee is preparing to meet with the Company to negotiate a fair and equitable contract that will provide great benefits for the workers while continuing to focus on providing the absolute best possible care for residents.

Unions are Not a Special Interest Group

Individual labor unions, like any organized constituency, sometimes have interests that conflict with the greater public’s. Police unions have an interest in protecting their officers from legal liability; the public, in ensuring that those who are supposed to “serve and protect” us have ample incentive not to shoot us dead. Coal miners’ unions have an interest in perpetuating their industry; the public, in perpetuating climatic conditions conducive to human life. But these conflicts do not render organized labor — as a whole — a “special interest group” like any other. While certain unions may be an obstacle to the greater good on discrete issues, they are collectively a uniquely effective vehicle for realizing that good on the issues that matter most to working people. read more at NY Magazine

New Jersey Health Care Workers Ratify Strong Contract

RWDSU Local 108 members at Woodlands Genesis health care center in New Jersey have ratified a new contract, their first union agreement since joining the RWDSU last year. The strong first contract was ratified by 100 percent of the membership. The contract brings some of the changes that workers sought when the joined together to join the union. For the first time, workers will be receiving shift and weekend differentials. They've also won four extra Holidays: MLK, Memorial Day, Easter and a floating Holiday. In addition, workers will see a 60 percent reduction on their contribution to the health Plan and a 2 percent wage increase for members under 5 years of service and a 2.5 percent or more increase for members over 5 years of service depending of the shift.