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Macy’s Takes Heat Over Fireworks Display and Labor Contract Talks

Backlash continues on Twitter over New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tweet on Wednesday that Macy’s annual fireworks celebration on July 4th will go ahead this year, despite the city’s costly battle to stop the coronavirus outbreak amid a shelter-in-place mandate.

“Summer’s going to be very different in our city this year, but I can promise you one thing: we’re working with @Macys to find a safe way to celebrate the Fourth of July,” the mayor tweeted.

Separately, The Mayor’s Office tweeted that it “will find a safe and responsible way to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. It’s a New York City tradition, and we’re working hard with @Macys to make it possible.”

The decision ignited a firestorm of backlash on Twitter, with responses ranging from how paycheck and job security will provide more for morale than fireworks, to concerns over risks to health and public welfare. Macy’s has furloughed nearly 130,000 workers in the wake of extended store closures.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union also is not happy with Macy’s Inc. at the moment.

The union is pushing the department store company for an extension of current bargaining contracts as the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. remains in full swing. A six-month extension is sought for each collective bargaining agreement. The Local 1-S agreement, which covers 4.300 workers across four Macy’s stores in the New York region, is set to expire on May 1. The union also has offered to hold off negotiations for its Local 3 agreement, currently slated for 2021, as well. Local 3 members include the 2,000 workers at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in Manhattan.

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A spokeswoman for Macy’s did not respond to a request for comment.

“Macy’s is insisting on holding contract negotiations in the midst of Governor Cuomo’s ‘stay-at-home’ order…. The stores are closed, nobody is working and neither party has any clue what the future will hold. How do you negotiate in good faith when the company is unable to tell you when each store will reopen or how it will reopen, or for what hours and with what staffing needs? It makes no logical sense for negotiations to move forward at this time–period,” said RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum.

Macy’s suggestion for negotiations at the beginning of May “attempt to take advantage of the crisis for its own ends,” Local 1-S president Angella Harding charged.

“Bloomingdale’s workers are offering to delay our negotiations an entire year to support our brothers and sisters at Macy’s–the least you can do is work with us. We are all adapting to this reality now as well. Bloomingdale’s/Macy’s Inc. needs to adapt to this reality now as well,” Cassandra A. Berrocal, Local 3 president, said. “Just as Macy’s Inc. shouldn’t be promising a fireworks show that encourages New Yorkers to gather in crowds to enjoy it, Macy’s also shouldn’t pretend that it’s business as usual when it comes to these negotiations.”

The struggling department store, which drew down its entire $1.5 billion credit line, is now looking to raise up to $5 billion to ensure liquidity and avoid the presumed fate of Neiman Marcus, expected to file for bankruptcy over the next few days. J.C. Penney Co. Inc., meanwhile, is also exploring a bankruptcy filing, presuming it can line up a debtor-in-possession financing facility to allow it to continue operations as it restructures under court supervision.