New Yorkers Deserve
More from Macy’s
By Stuart Appelbaum, President
Retail, Wholesale and Department
Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
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
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
Governor 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 Governor 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.
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