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Macy’s workers unite for better conditions — and for respect


(Aug. 30, 2018) — Retail work is getting harder and harder in many places across our region. It’s getting harder all across the nation. Unfortunately, Macy’s corporate leadership represents a good example of some of the problems workers face.

Alongside many other members of UFCW 21, the largest private-sector union in Washington, I work at the Southcenter Macy’s. My fellow UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) members and I have been in negotiations since March to get a renewed contract. But Macy’s has stuck to proposals that would force us to use vacation time when we are sick, give them the ability to change our commission unilaterally without our approval. and push a pay proposal that would result in many workers getting no raises at all, effectively dismantling our wage scale as we know it.

These are not proposals that respect us as workers.

That’s why we have been pushing back. Over many months, we’ve taken actions in our stores and in our communities. And this past week, we voted overwhelmingly to reject Macy’s current proposals and urge them to come back to the bargaining table with an improved set of proposals.

This is not just a question of the treatment of a few hundred retail workers. It is bigger than that. It’s about our quality of life — and the quality of life of all workers.

We work hard for our employer, and they benefit financially from that work. We know that they benefit from our work. The inequality between CEO pay and the pay of the people who work for them is extreme; CEO pay is estimated to be, on average, more than 300 times the rate of pay for the people who work for them. That means that a CEO, on average, earns the same amount in one year as 10 of his employees — and yes, they are mostly men — would earn for their entire 30-year careers. The wealthy few are making money like never before. The stock market has continued to climb beyond anything we’ve ever seen. But we generally don’t see those gains.

Not only is this wealth not shared, but when we do ask for more, we are met with disrespect and attempts to undercut our working standards.

I recently felt this lack of respect in person when the CEO of Macy’s was in town for a visit.

He was touring one of the local Macy’s stores and several of us tried to meet with him to discuss our concerns. Not only would he not make the time to meet with us, but he had the nerve to tell me, “respect my time.”

Respect his time. All I wanted was two minutes, and he wouldn’t give that to me. I’d like to ask him to respect my time. CEO’s would not have their jobs if not for the hard work of their employees and they should not forget that. Respect the time and the hard work of your hundreds of unionized employees here in Puget Sound.

We will not sit quietly. Following the vote last week, we will be taking action together at informational pickets this week at Macy’s locations throughout the region. Workers like me, alongside family and community supporters, will be walking picket lines to show we are united for a fair contract. We are united against Macy’s efforts to reduce our benefits. We are united for respect and a better life.

And when we unite, we can win.

Candace Hemphill is a member of UFCW 21 and works at the Southcenter Macy’s store. This column originally appeared in Real Change and is crossposted here with the author’s permission.

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