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Bloomingdale’s needs to recognize importance of workers 

Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW, www.rwdsu.org | 4/27/2017, 6:42 p.m.
Since 1937, the RWDSU has represented the employees at Bloomingdale’s flagship store on 59th Street. The store is a New ...
Stuart Applebaum

Since 1937, the RWDSU has represented the employees at Bloomingdale’s flagship store on 59th Street. The store is a New York City institution and an internationally famous tourist destination. Every year it generates millions of dollars in profits for Bloomingdale’s and serves as an icon for the upscale retail chain.

The customer service provided by RWDSU Local 3 members is one of the reasons for the enduring popularity at this iconic store. Bloomingdale’s workers’ customer service and skills on the sales floor at the 59th Street store have helped establish the Bloomingdale’s brand, which has benefited the retailer’s sales both in-store and online.

That’s why it’s important that Bloomingdale’s invests in its workers. They want the in-store experience to be a positive one for customers, created by motivated workers. Bloomingdale’s needs to negotiate a fair new contract with its workers by the May 1 deadline. Negotiations have so far been difficult, with the company asking for unreasonable givebacks and refusing to address issues with the commission policy that are hitting workers’ paychecks hard.

At 59th Street, online sales are happening because of the work Local 3 members do on the sales floor, often spending hours providing service to customers who then finalize their sales online. In fact, Bloomingdale’s has placed signs in the store encouraging customers to finalize their purchases online. Workers’ time and attention are helping to make sales every day, but commissions that should be going to them are instead being pocketed by management. This practice is resulting in huge pay cuts for Bloomingdale’s workers, the majority of whom are paid only through their commissions. Bloomingdale’s workers are reporting that they are taking home at least 20 percent less than they were five years ago.

Bloomingdale’s management has so far refused to consider reasonable solutions to this issue that would award commission pay from these types of sales while still providing customers with the option to pay online for in-store sales. In addition, Bloomingdale’s health care benefits are becoming unaffordable for workers, with premiums going up each year and outpacing employee wage increases. The company also wants to take away hard-won seniority rights and other benefits from senior employees. And, Bloomindale’s workers are also being harmed by a store policy that requires them to give up commissions even months after sales are made if items are returned. When they get their paychecks, they don’t even know if they will be able to keep the money they have earned or will be forced to return it at a later date.

The bottom line is that Bloomingdale’s needs to reinvest in its workforce to build for the future and to protect its brand. It’s what will keep people shopping at Bloomingdale’s and online. It’s more important than ever that Bloomingdale’s ensures a positive in-store experience—and not just to make sales, but to preserve the mystique of the Bloomingdale’s brand that transcends their brick-and-mortar stores.

It should just be common sense for Bloomingdale’s. Negotiating a fair contract that respects their workers and recognizes their value is important at this critical juncture for Bloomingdale’s. Will the 59th Street store remain an upscale shopping experience that attracts shoppers from around the world and on its website, or will the brand turn into just another online outlet? These negotiations will provide the answer.

RWDSU members will not accept a contract that diminishes the value they provide for Bloomingdale’s. And Bloomingdale’s shouldn’t pursue a contract that will hurt their workers as well as their standing as a premier shopping destination and experience.