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H&M agrees to union deal in Manhattan


New York City More than 1,000 employees of H&M stores in Manhattan will receive wage increases and other benefits under their first union contract ever. The workers, members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, ratified the agreement on May 22.

The employees won the right to negotiate with the Stockholm, Sweden-based fast-fashion company in November 2007 after it agreed not to interfere in the campaign and to recognize the union if a majority of workers signed cards. About 70% of them signed, according to the report.

"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 that the new, three-year pact guarantees a 3% 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.

The contract also contains scheduling protections sought by the workers. The deal stipulates that schedules must be posted a week in advance and cannot be changed without the consent of the employee. Full-time employees also must be given full-time hours.

According to various reports, the H&M campaign is an example of the type of organizing that could be expected if the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act legislation pending in Congress were to pass. The proposed legislation would allow workers to bypass elections and join a union if a majority of employees in a bargaining unit sign authorization.

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