RWDSU Local 1102 Files Federal Charges Against Saks

Jan 05, 2010, 15:02 ET from Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union

NEW YORK, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Saks Fifth Avenue is being charged with "gross labor law violations" as a result of its December 14 firing of 115 workers in the cosmetics department of its flagship Fifth Ave. store. In a charge filed today with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Local 1102 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union ( said that Saks fired the employees in retaliation for their decision to join the retail workers union.

"Saks has a long history of obstructing the rights of their employees to organize," said Local 1102 President Frank Bail. "We can't let Saks' lawlessness go unchallenged, and we won't."

In its charge to the NLRB, Local 1102 described Saks' firing of the workers as part of a broader strategy by the retailer to avoid its legal responsibilities to respect its employees' right to organize. According to Local 1102, Saks told its cosmetic department staff that they were being terminated because all future sales at the Fifth Ave. store would be handled by outside vendors who would offer reduced wages and benefits. However, Saks would continue to maintain control of work done in the cosmetic department.

"Saks is playing a sophisticated corporate shell game. By maintaining control, but claiming not to be in charge, they think they can sidestep their legal responsibilities as an employer," Bail said. The Local 1102 president added that Saks' vendors are also offering less compensation to workers than the retailer did. Bail described the practice as "another example of a troubled company taking management's failures out on their employees as they continue to reduce wages and benefits." While vendors and merchants frequently join together as "co-employers" of department store workers, Bail said the practice has traditionally not been used to thwart union organizing efforts and slash worker paychecks.

The Local 1102 charge against Saks also states that the company broke federal labor laws when it offered a "severance" package only to workers who agreed to release Saks from any employment related legal claims - including claims that their right to organize a union were being violated.

"Our message to the NLRB is that Saks has to rehire the workers they fired, recognize their union, and come to the bargaining table. Anything less would be a legal travesty and a moral outrage," Bail said.

SOURCE Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union