In our third bargaining session, the bargaining committee of New York New Jersey Regional Joint Board members employed at Barney’s New York organized a red day on March 14. Demonstrating their unity at the table and their unity of purpose, the committee came together again to answer the company’s proposals and set forth a strong position for the Union.
The Company made a new proposal to withdraw from the Union Health Plan and offer insurance through the Company plan. We requested information from the Company so that we can compare the benefits and costs of the Company insurance side by side with the Union insurance. The Company also announced that they still had more proposals to make and would do so at the next meeting.
Members from a number of departments spoke about the pros and cons of inter-selling in their departments and reported back on their conversations in the store. We agreed that it is a sensitive and important issue that must be dealt with carefully and with consideration for everyone’s interests. We also made it clear that we expected the company to provide more information about their plan before we could set out a unified position on the proposal. A number of members expressed the view that certain specialty departments should be excluded, if we are to consider open selling.
Evelyn Bernacet, shop steward for the shipping and receiving department who has worked at Barney’s for over thirty years, discussed the working conditions in her department, including health and safety concerns, and frustration over the lack of respect for the work done by her and her colleagues. Together with her coworkers, she presented a petition demanding specific changes in her department and the company agreed to meet with a subcommittee to address these concerns.
Julie Kelly, General Manager of the Joint Board, spoke about the Union’s desire to help make Barney’s a successful company and a company whose growth has come only with the success and stability of its Union workforce.
Fred Kaplan made a strong statement calling out the pettiness of some of the company’s more backward proposals – eliminating overtime pay for days over 8 hours, reducing family, medical, and parental leave, and making 4th of July and New Year’s Day mandatory – and underscoring the Union’s long history, demonstrable power, and commitment to fair bargaining that ensures a secure environment where all members can flourish in their careers. He also told the Company that until all of their proposals were on the table, the Union Committee would not respond nor would we put our own economic proposals on the table.
The strength and commitment of the committee, coupled with the feedback we have received from everyone in the stores, indicate that the Union is in a good position to win a strong contract this year. The next bargaining session is set for Friday, March 21.