How do you fairly pay a retail worker in the age of online shopping?
"They tried to disregard the union and i said nooo, nooo, nooo!" At a rally for a new Bloomingdale's employee contract, a band plays a parody of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" while scattered voices in the crowd register the tune and sing along.
The workers, who are part of the Local 3 United Store Workers under the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), are contained on a single block next to Bloomingdale’s 59th street location in Manhattan. The area for the rally is compact enough that it can fit a large inflated rat inside the barricades without impeding traffic.
Still: It’s crowded. Bloomingdale’s employees, Local 3 leadership, union members from New Jersey and Connecticut, higher-ups at the RWDSU, and local city councilmen and women have all gathered to voice support for what they call a fair contract. Local 3’s website reads that they’re “fighting to keep what we have and to get you a real wage increase with decent Medical benefits.” But stagnant wages and healthcare aren’t the only issues Bloomingdale’s employee have to contend with; much of the rally’s time is dedicated to another topic that has intensified contract negotiations: the effects of ecommerce on the retail worker;
“The negotiations are a lot different this year because of online and the changing climate of retail sales is making this extremely difficult,” says Mary*, 59, a sales associate who’s been with Bloomingdale’s for 15 years and is also part of the union’s executive board. Bloomingdale’s did not respond to Racked’s request for comment. When Bloomingdale’s and the union last negotiated this contract in 2012, Macy’s (Bloomingdale’s parent company) was riding a 5.6 percent increase in sales and its CEO Terry Lundgren had seen his compensation package shoot up to $14.5 million, a 23 percent increase, the year prior.
Should the employees in retail establishment benefit from online sales?
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