Manhattan Employees of Spanish Retailer Zara Win Union Representation

Employees of Zara are joined by other members of Local 1102, which workers at the Spanish fashion chain's Manhattan stores just voted to join. | COURTESY: RWDSU
Employees of Zara are joined by other members of Local 1102, which workers at the Spanish fashion chain’s Manhattan stores just voted to join. | COURTESY: RWDSU

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | At a time when organized labor has faced considerable pushback, both from public sector employers and in corporate America, the retail sector continues to be a bright spot for union growth.

On August 2, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced that Zara, a Spanish fashion chain with eight Manhattan locations, has agreed to recognize the union’s Local 1102, which will represent more than 1,000 workers at those stores. The Manhattan employees are the first Zara workers unionized in the US.

Earlier this year, Zara, which is owned by Inditex, the world’s largest clothing retailer, agreed to remain neutral as RWDSU carried out its organizing efforts, which resulted in a majority of workers signing cards voicing their support for a union.

RWDSU Local 1102 was formed in 2009, when it organized nearly 1,200 workers at H&M.

Joseph Minton, an associate at Zara’s 59th Street store on Lexington Avenue, voiced enthusiasm for the new union representation, saying, “Working in retail is extremely fast-paced and hectic. I’m excited that the company is willing to listen to our concerns and work with the union for everyone’s benefit.”

Both Gemma de Leon Lopresti, the Local 1102 president, and Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU president, praised Zara for the retailer’s posture during the organizing efforts.

“Zara’s approach to recognize the right of its workers to form a union, without intimidation, is a message to all retailers — you can be successful and still respect the rights of your employees,” de Leon Lopresti said.

RWDSU has a strong representation among Manhattan retail workers, with members who work at Macy’s (where a new four-year contract was recently negotiated on behalf of 5,000 New York-area employees), Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Cole Haan, Modell’s Sporting Goods, Duane Reade, major supermarkets such as Gristedes, and local car washes.

In addition to its 59th Street store at 750 Lexington, Zara, which opened its first US location in New York City in 1989, has stores at 1963 Broadway at 66th Street, 666 Fifth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets, 500 Fifth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, 39 West 34th Street, and three locations further downtown.