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1,000 H&M workers win wage & benefit gains in first RWDSU contract
May '09
More than 1,000 employees of H & M clothing stores in Manhattan will receive wage increases and other benefits in their first union contract ever. The workers, members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), ratified the agreement on May 22. The workers won the right to negotiate with the Sweden-based company in November of 2007.

"At a time when retail workers are taking it on the chin it's great to win an agreement that's going to mean higher wages and an even better working environment for H & M workers and their families," said Frank Bail, president of RWDSU Local 1102. Bail said the that the new, three year pact guarantees a three percent wage increase in its first year with wage re-openers in its second and third years An additional merit-based increase is included for each year of the contract.

"This agreement represents a win-win for both the workers and H & M," Bail added. The union leader pointed out that, in addition to wage increases, the contract gives workers union representation everyday on the job and recognizes the importance of a healthy and safe workplace. "Workers at H&M know they have the union in their corner and that creates a better working environment."

Local 1102 Executive Vice President Gemma DeLeon noted that the contract also contains new protection for workers who often faced schedule changes without prior notice. Under the new contract schedules must be posted a week in advance and cannot be changed without the consent of the employee. In addition the contract protects full-time employees' right to full-time hours.

"Winning the right to know about planned schedule changes is critical for all workers, but especially employees who are juggling family obligations," said DeLeon.

"Up until now unannounced schedule changes were creating chaos for workers with young children, " DeLeon said. She noted that workers would at times be sent home early or made to stay late with little or no notice at all. "The new contract guarantees that you know your schedule in advance."

"Employees at H&M haven't only won a new contract and better pay, they won more control over their lives and the dignity and respect that comes from a strong union voice," said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. "This is what collective bargaining is all about."

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

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