More than 200 Bloomingdale’s workers took to the streets Tuesday to rally in front of the flagship store on 59th Street for better pay, better benefits, and to keep their pensions.
Representatives and supporters of the workers’ union, Local 3 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said the high-end retailer is trying to take away the pensions of workers at the uptown location and doesn’t offer enough compensation.
“I’m here because I want them to be fair — $2, $3 more an hour. And that’s not even that much,” said Gerald Young, 61, a Laurelton resident who has worked at the store for nine years. “I love having support.”
Young, who works in maintenance, said he makes $13.60 per hour, and said his yearly raise is about 50 or 60 cents.
Oscar Riegler, 58, works as a night processor at Bloomingdale’s and has been with the company for 17 years. But his bills, he said, are adding up.
“If you work, you should earn what you’re working for,” said Riegler, a Bay Ridge resident.
Workers and supporters brandished handmade signs while passing cars honked their horns, music played, and supporters took the mic.
New York state Sen. Diane Savino said the “Bloomingdale’s experience” should extend to workers at the store as well as the customers.
“Millions of tourists come here every day and one of their first stops is this store,” she said. “So when this store says they cannot afford to negotiate a decent contract that provides wages and benefits and dignity for their workforce, they are lying through their teeth.”
Allen Mayne, the director of collective bargaining for the RWDSU, said the union is fighting for several points, including a commission structure in which a percentage of online sales within a geographic area would go to workers in whichever department the item came from.
“What’s happening nowadays is that people are using the store as a showroom,” he said. “And you can literally come to the store, try on several different things, spend a couple hours, get great service and you go … ‘I’m just going to order it, have it delivered to my house, I don’t even want to carry it.’”
Anne Keating, the senior vice president of public relations for Bloomingdale’s, said the retail market is changing and the store needs to adapt with it.
“We’re focused on reaching a fair and reasonable agreement that recognizes our associates’ commitment to customers, because they’re very important to us,” Keating said. “We just need to address the competitive and business realities that we face.
“Retail is at its tipping point and online is growing,” she added. “We need to evolve. We need to work out what the best compensation is for our workers and the union needs to work with us.”