Retail Workers Are Organizing for Safety and Dignified Pay Amid Holiday Rush

Andrew Stacy, an Indianapolis Target employee, was spreading the word about a unionizing effort in their store the week before Christmas. The busy holiday season — and new anxieties raised by the recently emerged Omicron variant of COVID-19 — was no reason for them to wait until the New Year. The store’s conditions were so bad around the holidays, that organizing seemed even more urgent.

“I’ve had to go into superspeed, escalating everything that I’m having to do just because the fourth quarter has been so difficult,” said Stacy, 32, member of the workers’ group Target Workers Unite.

Stacy said that staffing is half the amount it was during the holidays. She also stated that there are fewer seasonal workers who are available to work shifts. Prism. Cashiers aren’t getting adequate breaks, if any at all. The standard $15-an hour wage is not enough. wages Target set in 2020 aren’t enough to live on — in a petition Stacy drafted, one of the key demands is for a minimum $17 per hour. Target recently announced that it is offering that wage on weekends during the holidays, but Target workers note wages aren’t keeping up with inflation.

“Everybody is at their wits’ end with it,” Stacy said. Working at Target has “become a much more soul-sucking and joyless experience than it has ever been.”

Stacy and her coworker were found posting flyers in the breakroom and then distributing them. Management confiscated the flyers and human resources held one-on-one meetings with workers about working conditions and higher-ups at the location — a move that Stacy saw as an illegal effort to shut down organizing and find out more about the union activity. They responded with a statement. filedDec. 15: A National Labor Review Board complaint PrismTarget was contacted by the complainant to provide comment on the concerns and the complaint.

Workers’ struggles at Target are just one example of what retail employees are facing this holiday season. About 15 million people work in retail in the U.S. — but Black and Latinx retail workers are more likely to be living in or near poverty, according to a 2015 policy paperPublication by Demos, liberal think tank. Particularly cashiers, who are amongst lowest-paid workers in this industry, are disproportionately Black or Latinx. According to a study, 56.5% of retail workers who were first-line supervisors, salespersons, or cashiers, were women. 2020 Census Bureau report.Retail workers find the holidays difficult. starting with Black Friday. Since the pandemic began, hundreds of thousands of retail workers have quit in what’s been called the “Great Resignation,”The skeleton crew of remaining retail workers must deal with impatient customers, and management pushing them towards doing more with less. According to Prism’s retail workers interviewed across the country, they have to deal also with insatiable customers. They said supply chain problems create a mismatch between actual inventory and what’s listed online and maskless customers remain a source of frustration. Now, in the midst of a new wave of coronavirus casesThey now face new uncertainties.

New York City Old Navy employees felt that in-store customers were back for the holidays.

“The store hasn’t been this crowded in a long time,” said the employee, who’s been working at the company for over a decade. She requested anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to speak to a journalist.

“I’m used to it from before [the pandemic],” said the woman. “Now with COVID, it’s a little bit more nerve-wracking, because not everybody wears their mask.”

“It’s a little bit more intense,” she said. Black worker worries about contracting COVID-19 and not getting the same treatment as others, given the fact that she is not able to see a doctor. prevalence of racial discrimination in medical care. She works full-time, so she gets some paid time off. However, it is still stressful. “You have to be more careful than before.”

“I had a customer get upset with me because I told him to put his mask on today,” she said, and customers have complained about long lines at checkout. She worries about shoplifters lashing out if confronted.

According to the employee, the workload feels heavier because of the lack of staffing. This is due to newcomers quitting their jobs or calling out for work. She believes the shortages are due to the minimum wage pay — $15 an hour — which prompts workers to jump ship for jobs that pay more. For now, she sticks around because she can’t afford to quit and she’s not so sure she could find a better job in retail — something she’s become passionate about despite the shortcomings of the industry for workers.

An Old Navy spokesperson said the company, owned by Gap Inc., is “continuing to evolve our strategies to attract and retain talent.”

The National Retail Foundation has a statement on retail sales. continue to riseDespite inflation, Omicron and supply challenges, the industry group has continued to thrive. The industry group expected 148 million Americans to shop last weekend on “Super Saturday,” the Saturday before Christmas. According to its estimates, approximately seven in 10 Americans would shop online or in-store.

Jose Palma, a two-year H&M employee in New York City, said the Manhattan location he works at has been “super crowded” this season, and he feels there aren’t enough workers to “support what the business really needs.”

Palma recently faced a maskless customer angry about not receiving a sale and another about the store’s return policy. “Coming in with that attitude and then also still not respecting the social awareness of Omicron, especially in New York, to me, is super disrespectful,” said Palma, a 23-year-old nursing student. New York City’s health department dataOmicron has nearly tripled the daily number of cases in the last week. over 90% of current casesIn the Health and Human Services Region that includes New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

Palma is working both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for an extra four hours pay at $16.32 an hour — the current rate he receives as a part-timer. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Manhattan’s minimum living wage is $21.77 for an adult without children. researcher’s estimateThe research of, which considered only the most basic needs in the U.S., and not entertainment, leisure, or holidays.

Gloria Song, a personal shoppers at a Walmart store in Maryland, stated that understaffing has forced employees to take shifts on days off, or work two or three extra hours.

“We have had a lot of people quit mainly due to the crazy hours or management,” said Song, 31, a member of the retail workers’ advocacy group United for Respect. “The pay has to do with a lot of it too.”

Song feels this holiday season brings less panic to her department where she packages online orders and takes them. Customers are used to online shopping and social distancing. Unmet expectations led to Song having to change her managerial role to become a personal shopper due to chronic understaffing.

“They kept telling me, ‘Oh we’re working on getting new people, we’re working on it,’” Song said. “It shut down my confidence. I’m just like, ‘You guys are my managers. You’re supposed to help me out.’”

Jimmy Carter, a Walmart spokesperson said that more than 150,000 associates were hired to ensure that stores are fully staffed during the holidays. “This specific store is currently fully staffed,” Carter added. “Many of our associates like to swap shifts with each other and/or pick up extra hours, so we offer those opportunities to anyone who is interested.”

H&M did not respond to requests for comment.

Ellie, a 24-year-old grocery store worker in northeast Ohio, claims that management offers at least $15 an hour to attract employees during the holiday season. She was paid $13.50 an hour to begin her job last summer.

“You can see the difference in the pressure [there] was in terms of having to hire to be ready for the holidays,” said Ellie, who requested anonymity because she is in a non-union role.

Still, she said, “it’s very about the comfort of the customer and not the worker.”

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