UFCW local in San Francisco fights concessions
By Emily Gimeno and Adrienne Johnstone | July 23, 2004 | Page 15
SAN FRANCISCO--Hundreds of Macy's workers went on a one-day strike at the company's Union Square and Stonestown Mall stores in San Francisco July 17. The workers--sales associates, greeters, clerical staff and stock clerks-- are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 101, which represents 1,500 Macy's workers. The workers have been fighting for a new contract since the old agreement expired June 23.
"We've got to show that we're organized and willing to fight and that we can shut them down," Steve Quinlan, a shop steward for Local 101, told Socialist Worker. The company wants to keep their family- and worker-unfriendly policies and make them worse by demanding major concessions.
Macy's wants a six-year contract and is demanding no paid sick days or relief on health care costs, which run the average employee around $500 each month. Macy's also doesn't have any sick days--and if people call into work sick, they get "points," which can equal discipline or termination.
Moreover, management has offered a pitiful 2 percent wage increase that would raise average earnings by just 23 cents per hour. Macy's has also started to discipline employees who do not open high interest rate Macy's charge card accounts, threatening them with termination.
Kevin Sears, Macy's main negotiator, says that "the staff is overpaid" with wages currently between $10.57 through $13.22 an hour--in San Francisco where the cost of living in the U.S. is only second to Manhattan. James, an employee of Macy's for 10 years, adds, "People come to work sick every day because they are afraid that they will get points against them."
But workers are determined to fight back. "Our union is not what you think of as your traditional union," said shop steward Quinlan, a 10-year veteran of the company. "We've got a lot of young people who are first, second generation immigrants. Macy's is a second job, or people are going to school. A lot of people don't think Macy's is a career job, so management slaps us around and does whatever they want."
Referring to the argument that Macy's workers are "overpaid," Quinlan said, "I personally feel this is really racist because 95 percent of these [new workers] are first generation Chinese immigrants." The one-day strike may be the first of several such actions, he added.
"We have to keep the momentum up in case the company comes back with a lame offer. We have to make sure we can go back out there again," Quinlan said. "A lot of people view this as a one-time shot and don't realize we might have to go back there next Saturday or have rolling strikes like the nurse did [California Nurses Association used rolling strikes in 2002]."
"The last strike before this one was in 1984. This just goes to show how workers need to unite in solidarity and fight against the profit-over-people syndrome that companies such as Macy's have against workers--before they turn out to be just like Wal-Mart."