Zara Workers Join RWDSU

Zara Workers--RWDSU

This week, after a majority of the workers at Zara’s eight stores in Manhattan signed cards stating they wanted to be represented by RWDSU Local 1102, the company agreed to recognize the union.  The agreement covers over 1,000 retail workers at all of Zara’s stores in Manhattan.  These are the first Zara workers in the United States to be unionized.

Zara, the Spanish fashion chain owned by Inditex, is the world’s largest clothing retailer.  The RWDSU and Zara reached an agreement earlier this year where the employer agreed to remain neutral and not to oppose the union’s attempt to organize its workforce.

“Zara’s approach to recognize the right of its workers to form a union, without intimidation, is a message to all retailers – you can be successful and still respect the right of your employees,” said Gemma de Leon Lopresti, president of RWDSU Local 1102.

This is the largest retail organizing win in New York City in recent years. In 2009, RWDSU Local 1102 organized nearly 1200 workers at H&M, another fast-fashion global retail chain.

Workers at Zara look forward to working in an environment where they can make their jobs better, and create better lives for themselves and their families.

“Working in retail is extremely fast-paced and hectic,” said Joseph Minton, an associate at Zara’s 59th street location.  “I’m excited that the company is willing to listen to our concerns and work with the union for everyone’s benefit.”

“We applaud Zara for recognizing the rights of its employees to choose to unionize, without interference,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “Unfortunately, too many American employers refuse to respect their workers’ right to freedom of association and intimidate and threaten workers who try to organize.”

“This process is a huge step for retail workers in New York. Zara, the largest fast-fashion retailer in the world, is sending a strong message that you can remain profitable and still recognize your workers’ right to dignity, justice and respect on the job,” said Appelbaum.

MCAW Press Conference Highlights Struggles of Injured Walmart Worker

OMaria from Walmart Press Conferencen March 10, the California Making Change at Walmart team held a press conference at the Walmart in Union City, Calif., to highlight one former Walmart worker’s struggle to get the company to fairly compensate her after an injury at work. Maria Umali worked in customer service at Walmart for 16 years until she broke her hip on the job. She is now wheelchair-bound and unable to move around much, but Walmart is refusing to pay for an at-home health aide and necessary medical equipment.

The press conference was attended by supportive Walmart workers; Alameda County’s District Two Supervisor Richard Valle; a representative from California Assemblymember Bill Quirk’s office; a representative from California Senator Bob Wieckowski’s office; and Pastor Kurt from FAME.

In a statement, Assemblymember Quirk said, “A responsible company provides safe working conditions for its employees. A responsible company provides fair compensation for its employees in those unfortunate conditions where accidents do occur. But Walmart is not a responsible company.”

Quirk added: “Maria is not alone. Walmart needs to step up and take responsibility for workers injured on the job.”

At the conference, Maria said, “I was a dedicated Walmart employee for 16 years. I liked my job but I don’t think I will ever be able to work again after my injury. I can barely afford to pay my medical bills, let alone pay for the home nurse that I need after my partner’s death. I just want Walmart to do the right thing.”

Click here to watch an interview with Maria from the press conference, and click here to sign a petition that asks Walmart to ensure that workers are safe on the job, and that people get the proper care if they are injured at work.

IKEA Retail Workers Form First U.S. Retail Store Union

Workers Challenge IKEA’s American Labor Relations Record by Calling for Union Recognition

P1010396BOSTON – Today, workers at the IKEA furniture store in Stoughton, Mass. filed with the company for union recognition. While IKEA USA has union manufacturing plants in Danville, Va., and IKEA Group prides itself on positive relationships with unionized workers in stores around the world, this is the first time that IKEA retail workers in the United States have formed a union.

The bargaining unit consists of workers in the Goods Flow In department. The workers are joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the nation’s largest private sector union with 1.3 million members.

“I love working at IKEA, and I want to make a career here,” said eight year IKEA co-worker Chris DeAngelo. “A union is the best way to work together to live our values and build an even better IKEA. We’ve gone through a lot at our store, but this is a chance to turn over a new leaf and reset the relationship between IKEA’s hard-working men and women and management. If IKEA does what is right and chooses to recognize our union today, it will show that IKEA respects our right to join a union without fear of retaliation or harassment.”

Workers are seeking union recognition in an NLRB process that allows an employer to voluntarily recognize a union when workers demonstrate majority support. An overwhelming majority of Goods Flow In workers have signed a public petition to join the union. A copy of the petition can be obtained by contacting mbulloch@ufcw.org.

The Boston-area IKEA store has been the subject of a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint filed in Boston, alleging that the company violated federal law by unlawfully infringing on the right of workers to engage in protected union activity. The company has since settled the complaint with the NLRB.

The effort to improve the lives of IKEA workers has garnered domestic and international support. Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, stated, “here at the meeting of our World Executive Board, the affiliates of UNI, representing 20 million workers, including those working at IKEA stores the world over, have stated their unequivocal support for the brave actions of workers in IKEA Stoughton”.  Jennings continued, “we call on IKEA to listen to the workers at Stoughton and recognize their union rights; and we have today committed to stand with these workers until they have a union contract.”

UNI Global Union is an international federation of unions, representing the unions of IKEA retail workers around the world.


Join the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) online at www.ufcw.org

We are 1.3 million families standing together to build an economy that every hard-working family deserves.

 www.facebook.com/UFCWinternational    @UFCW


UNI Global Union, based in Nyon, Switzerland, represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade. UNI and our affiliates in all regions are driven by the responsibility to ensure these jobs are decent and workers’ rights are protected, including the right to join a union and collective bargaining.

Social Security Turns 80

via publicnewsservice.org

Eighty years ago today, President Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act (SSA), which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. While the future of Social Security continues to be a hot issue leading up to the 2016 election, there’s no doubt that the SSA changed what it meant to grow old in America.

Prior to Social Security, growing old was something to be dreaded. During the Great Depression many older people were unemployed, and people who had worked hard all their lives were living in poverty as they grew older due to illnesses or the sudden loss of a job.  Age discrimination made it even more difficult for older workers who were able to work to find employment.

Today, Social Security continues to give older people and the disabled some hope and stability in the form of a guaranteed and predictable monthly replacement of wages. According to the Social Security Administration, more than 59 million Americans received $863 billion in Social Security benefits last year, and working Americans continue to pay into Social Security so that they will receive money when they stop working.

At the signing ceremony on August 14, 1935, President Roosevelt said: “Today a hope of many years’ standing is in large part fulfilled. The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, has tended more and more to make life insecure. Young people have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age. The man with a job has wondered how long the job would last….We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”

Walmart Worker-Shareholder Reacts to Retail Giant’s First Quarter Sales Report

DSC_6674Today, Walmart reported lower-than-expected quarterly U.S. same-store sales growth in its first quarter earnings report.  In response to the retail giant’s Q1 earnings report, OUR Walmart member and Walmart shareholder Teresa Adams of Pico Rivera, Calif., issued the following statement:

“Walmart’s weak earnings report this morning is telling, but it’s nothing new for the countless number of associates nationwide who have been calling for a change to the company’s low-road, low-wage business model over the past few years. When workers who are committed to the company’s success can’t secure much-needed pay and hours, they aren’t the only ones who suffer. Customers lose, and so do shareholders. Shelves aren’t properly stocked. Check-out lines are long. And the company’s reputation takes a hit when its employees don’t make enough money to stay off government assistance programs, At a time when Walmart needs to be investing more in its employees and stores, it closes four apparently profitable stores and lays off a reported 2,200 workers, while grasping at straws to justify the move. I think it’s no coincidence that OUR Walmart members were active in one of those stores.

“My fellow OUR Walmart members, like Shannon Henderson who made about $13,000 last year working as many hours as Walmart would let her, and I have been working to offer solutions to the problems that plague the company and its operations. CEO Doug McMillon has responded to one of our demands by raising wages for those of us at the bottom of the ladder, but it’s not enough. We all need higher wages and, even more importantly, we need more hours for ourselves and for our customers.

“OUR Walmart Associate-shareholders are going to the upcoming Walmart annual shareholder meeting, where we have submitted two shareholder proposals. We are encouraging shareholders to use their votes to rein in executive compensation and incentivize sustainable investment, such as fair wages and more hours for workers.

“It’s long past time for Walmart and the Waltons to take an honest and candid look at the concerns raised by investors, shareholders and customers. Treating associates with respect and providing adequate staffing and hours are fundamental to putting Walmart on the path to strong sales and success. And that’s the direction Walmart needs to go.”



Target Raises Wages, But Does Not Address Need for Full-Time Hours

image via cnn money

image via cnn money

Last week, Target Corp. announced that it will raise its minimum wage to $9 per hour in April.  This latest development follows on the heels of Walmart’s plans to raise wages for 500,000 hourly employees, starting at $9 per hour for its lowest paid workers.  TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and HomeGoods have also followed Walmart’s lead, and Dollar General Corp. recently announced that it plans to increase hours for its employees in order to remain competitive.

While Target’s announcement is a step in the right direction, more must be done to raise standards in the retail industry, including increasing access to full-time hours.  At least half of Walmart’s 1.4 million employees continue to struggle in part-time jobs and are not getting the hours they need to support themselves and their families.

“As retail workers, we’re glad to see that the pressure we are putting on Walmart is translating to real raises for our coworkers throughout the industry,” said Barbara Gertz, a Walmart worker and member of OUR Walmart, in reaction to Target’s wage announcement. “While we know that $9 or $10 an hour is still too little to raise a family – especially with no guarantee that we’ll get the hours we need – we also know that this is yet another example of what can be accomplished when a determined group of workers comes together.”

“We are encouraged by Target’s actions today and will continue to fight for $15 an hour and access to the full-time work we need to put food on the table. The fact remains that with $16 billion in profits, Walmart can afford to provide the good jobs that Americans need,” said Gertz.

The Retail Justice Alliance will continue to stand with members of OUR Walmart and all retail workers who are fighting to improve standards in the retail industry so that workers in this growing sector have the wages and hours they need to support their families. 

Income Inequality Dominates the National Conversation

This week, Oxfam released a new report that estimates that the combined wealth of the richest one percent will exceed that of the 99 percent next year unless actions are taken to curb inequality.
The report, titled Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, shows that the wealthy few increased their global wealth from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014. Based on this trend, the combined wealth of the richest one percent is expected to be more than 50 percent in 2016. The report also notes that just 80 of the wealthiest people in the world possess a combined wealth of $1.9 trillion, which is nearly the same amount shared by 3.5 billion people, or the poorest 50 percent of the global population. The list of the 80 wealthiest people in the world includes members of the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart empire.
Also this week, President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address, which focused on income inequality and the need to rebuild America’s shrinking middle class. President Obama unveiled a number of proposals aimed at strengthening working and middle class Americans. The proposals include strengthening unions and building more worker protections, such as maternity leave and seven days of sick leave for all; two free years of community college; tax breaks to working and middle class families; and affordable, high quality childcare for working parents.
Income inequality is the biggest crisis facing our country, and the Retail Justice Alliance urges the 114th Congress to act now and narrow the wealth gap by supporting the president’s proposals.

Workers Continue the Fight to Improve the Quality of Jobs in the Retail Industry

image via driverlayer.com

image via driverlayer.com

As we start the new year, the retail sector continues to be an important employer of minorities and women.  However, too many workers in this industry are struggling to survive in low-wage, part-time jobs with inconsistent hours that hamper their ability to juggle life’s demands and prevent them from climbing the economic ladder.

As income inequality continues to grow, worker-led campaigns such as OUR Walmart and the Fight for $15, have made these issues part of the national conversation and elected officials have taken notice.  Last year, Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Schedules That Work Act (H.R. 5159) that included a presumption that retail workers who need a schedule change due to child care, school, a second job, or medical needs will receive that change unless there is a bona fide business reason not to. The legislation would also provide retail workers advance notice of their schedules and guaranteed minimum pay when they are sent home from work before completing their entire shift.

Fair, flexible, and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure that retail workers are treated with dignity and respect. The Retail Justice Alliance urges Congress to swiftly pass the Schedules That Work Act to improve scheduling in the retail sector and provide retail workers with a pathway to the middle class.

A Victory for Retail Workers in San Francisco

140729_rwborLast week, the Retail Workers Bill of Rights became law in San Francisco—making the city the first in the nation to address the industry specific problems retail workers face every day, including unpredictable scheduling. 

The new law, which is a package of two separate pieces of legislation, requires retailers with at least 20 employees and 20 or more locations worldwide to give retail workers their schedules at least two weeks in advance.  The new law also discourages abusive on-call scheduling practices by requiring retailers to provide their employees with an extra two-to-four hours of pay if changes to schedules are made with less than 24 hours’ notice; promotes full-time work and access to hours; and protects retail workers from losing their jobs when their company is bought or sold.

The Retail Workers Bill of Rights serves as a model for how individual cities can tackle income inequality and improve the quality of jobs in the retail sector, and the Retail Justice Alliance applauds the city of San Francisco for standing up for working families.


Raising the Minimum Wage Was a Winning Issue on Election Day

On Election Day, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota rejected the notion that the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 is sufficient for workers, and passed binding referendums to increase their minimum wages. Alaska’s minimum wage will increase to $9.75 by 2016. In Arkansas, the minimum wage will increase to $8.50 by 2017. Nebraska’s minimum wage will increase to $9 by 2016, and South Dakota’s minimum wage will increase to $8.50 by 2015.

While Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota join the growing number of states and localities that have raised their own minimum wage to levels higher than the federal rate, all Americans deserve a living wage and this problem calls for a federal solution. But despite widespread public support, House Republicans and big business continue to block efforts to raise the minimum wage. These Republicans and their corporate backers have stuck to the same old, tired argument that raising the minimum wage will be bad for businesses, despite findings from a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research which found that states that raised the minimum wage experienced faster employment growth than the states that didn’t.

The value of the minimum wage has been declining for more than four decades, and if the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would now be worth over $10 per hour. Yet, we are stuck at $7.25 per hour as more and more workers are either falling out of the middle class or struggling in poverty due to insufficient wages and more and more wealth is concentrated in the hands of the one percent.

Raising the current federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation would provide millions of workers with a living wage and boost our economy. It’s time for Republicans to address the many Americans who are struggling to get by and raise the minimum wage.