Macy’s (NYSE:M) workers at four New York stores are threatening to begin a strike at midnight tonight if an agreement on a new contract is not reached by the deadline. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents 5,000 Macy’s workers including 3,500 from the flagship store on Manhattan’s Herald Square, say the cost of health care for workers is unreasonable and that the employees want more predictable schedules. Another contested issue is the pension plans for senior employees.
In addition to the store overlooking Herald Square on West 34th Street, the contract covers workers at Macy’s locations in the Bronx, Queens and White Plains. According to Macy’s spokeswoman Elina Kazan, the negotiations are ongoing. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union, said in a statement. “If Macy’s does not negotiate in good faith today, we will have no choice but to strike at midnight.”
Macy’s sees the threat of the strike as valid and is taking steps to minimize disruptions to its business. One of these steps has been to take out ads in local newspapers for temporary workers. The company claims that the ads seeking temporary workers are a “standard but necessary practice” to ensure the company is prepared in the event of a strike.
Macy’s last faced a strike five years ago. That action was averted when negotiations were extended beyond the midnight deadline. The flagship store on 34th Street hasn’t had a strike since 1972. Kazan said in a company statement, “We are committed to keeping the lines of communication open and continuing the talks round-the-clock with the goal of reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable both for our workers and the company.”
The labor dispute is just the latest struggle to hit Macy’s this year. Sales have been slowing amidst increasing competition from lower cost retailers and e-commerce companies. While Macy’s is still the nation’s biggest clothing retailer, some industry experts believe it will be dethroned by Amazon as soon as next year.