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On the last full day of Christmas shopping for most, nearly 100 workers from Macy’s Union Square flagship store in San Francisco went on strike, staging themselves outside all five entrances.
“Don’t shop Macy’s! Don’t shop Macy’s!” workers in the picket line chanted. Beside them was a giant inflatable Scabby rat, whose presence symbolizes an active labor dispute. In this case, contract negotiations between workers and the company have stalled.
Despite the presence of the strikers, most shoppers braved the picket lines to walk into Macy’s to make their purchases, and then hurried out, carrying Macy’s iconic red-starred bags. Inside, there was no apparent shortage of staff, especially in the areas near the entrance.
“We would like to thank all customers for not shopping at Macy’s today,” said an organizer in the line holding a megaphone. “By turning your back on Macy’s today and not shopping with them, you support these union workers on strike, fighting for a better contract and affordable healthcare.”
While few seemed to heed that request, the strikers remained resolute, and the strike will continue until 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
After workers rejected a company offer last week, the Union Square store’s 400 or so employees, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 (UFCW5), voted overwhelmingly to authorize the strike.
In response to the two-day strike, Macy’s stated in an email to Mission Local that its “top priority is to ensure the safety of our colleagues and customers. Our Macy’s Union Square store remains open to customers and colleagues.”
A flyer workers distributed at the event today read, “Despite more than $25 billion in sales and a profit of more than $1 billion over the last 12 months, Macy’s has offered its associates a pay increase of less than 2.5 percent an hour over three years, while proposing to reduce staff, undermine seniority rights, and refusing to provide affordable health insurance. The result of the company’s insulting offer would be increased poverty for workers and less customer service for shoppers.”
Macy’s has pulled workers from other locations to make up for the shortage, according to Michelle Jones, a 36-year Macy’s employee who was at the protest.
Most of the sales jobs inside were taken over by managers, non-union workers and those employed by various brands, according to John Nunes, the president of Local 5. Macy’s has already cut its hours of operation for the two-day strike, he said.
Nunes said that “the company is making an inadequate offer” to both full- and part-time workers, who are currently paid an average of less than $22 per hour. For entry-level positions, the hourly wage is just above $17.
“The reason for striking is, they don’t feel that they’re being rewarded for all the stress and anxiety they put up for the last three years, due to COVID,” he said. “They put their own safety and health at risk … and the cost of living is so high in this area. They want to be rewarded more for all they’ve been through.”
Oscar Orozco, Local 5’s North Bay Director, said many workers found the company’s proposed contract unacceptable, primarily because of the pay raise plan that he described as “paltry,” a health care plan that many described as “unaffordable,” and plans to lay off workers and replace full-time employees with part-time workers.
Michelle Jones, 55, who has been working 36 years with Macy’s and is now a clerk at the personal shopping office, said she spent about $2,000 this summer on a dental infection because the deductible on the health insurance offered by Macy’s was too high.
When she learned that part of Macy’s plan was to cut full-time merchandisers by nearly half to around 40, she said, “It’s heartbreaking. I spent so many years here. I really love this place. I love the coworkers I’ve worked with. I just feel under-appreciated.”
At the entrance of Macy’s on O’Farrell Street, Ana, a merchandiser of 15 years, kept ringing a golden metal bell to attract the attention of passersby. “They are trying to layoff us,” she said.
Macy’s tells workers the Union Square location is costing a lot of money. “Macy’s leaders have talked about it not being profitable for the entire time I’ve worked here … They’re trying to streamline workers as much as they can. I understand both sides. It’s tough on both,” a worker who asked not to be identified by name said. “But, in general, the company could probably do better.”
To date, no negotiations with Macy’s have been scheduled, according to Jones.
Growing up in San Francisco, when my mama took my sisters and me downtown to shop, if there was a picket going on outside of a store she’d plan to enter, that was a line we did not cross– EVER!
Shame on those shoppers who crossed the picket line.
Disgusting to see these shoppers cross the picket line. Good luck, guys!