Macy’s reached a tentative deal on a labor contract with workers Thursday, skirting a strike that would have been the department store’s first in 40 years.
As many as 5,000 workers had been gearing up to walk out of Macy’s Herald Square flagship, Queens, Parkchester and White Plains stores Thursday if they hadn’t settled a contract with a better health care plan, pensions and scheduling changes. Macy’s prepped itself by putting out job postings for temp workers “in anticipation of a possible labor dispute” as the ad read.
Fortunately for the retailer, a tentative agreement was reached late Wednesday night. Health care coverage had been the biggest point of contention, and the price was most problematic.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) told the New York Times that more than three-quarters of the workers couldn’t afford the health insurance on offer.
“The premiums are just too high for people,” Applebaum told the Times, adding that the deductible was $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for families.
Workers also wanted higher wages and an adjustment to the company’s commissions policy. Currently, any merchandise returned within six months could count against the worker’s sales and possibly lower their paycheck, and workers were seeking to have that window in which returns could count against them shortened.
The issue hadn’t been as pressing until the uptick in returns in recent years.
Details of the agreement have not yet been disclosed but the union is expected to sign the deal within one week.
“We are pleased with the outcome of our overnight negotiations and happy to report that a tentative agreement between Macy’s and Local 1-S [the chapter of the retail union that represents Macy’s employees] for our workers has been reached, therefore averting a possible strike today,” Macy’s spokeswoman Elina Kazan wrote in an e-mail to the Times.