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Macy’s Anti-Union Pamphlet

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Our valued commenter Murc took a job at Macy’s. When he was hired, the company gave him a lovely anti-union pamphlet. He then sent it to me. I have photographed and it and am providing it for you to see. You’ll notice a couple of things. First, while such a pamphlet is legal, it’s brimming with half-truths about unions that are intended to do a combination of scaring workers and making them think a union is a waste of their time and money. The highlight for me is when Macy’s says a union can’t guarantee workers benefits; technically true but what it really shows is just that Macy’s is going to refuse to negotiate for higher wages with a union. After all, “neither party is required to make a concession.” Ah. My second favorite line is about how workers once needed unions but “Today, workers no longer need a group to fight for these rights. They are guaranteed by law.” If I was drinking water when reading then, I would have done a spit take. Anyway, the more we publicize the anti-union activities that goes on behind the scenes, the better. I just am showing the text side of the pamphlet, which has most of the good stuff.

Now, I don’t think there is any kind of campaign to organize department store workers, at least nothing I know of. But remember, you don’t have to pay a union money to work here. Of course, without a union you won’t actually make any money.

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  • fka AWS

    Unions are a business, but unlike most businesses, unions don’t manufacture a product or sell anything.

    Ugh.

    • Murc

      That right there was my personal favorite line in the whole damn thing.

      No, wait. Not favorite. The other word.

    • Tristan

      so unions are like banks?

      • I think I understand now, to Unions we’re all just derivatives!!!

    • DrDick

      That description sounds like the financial secto to me.

  • Warren Terra

    Thanks for this, but if you’re going to make a habit of it do try to get access to a flatbed scanner (or modern photocopier capable of making a PDF rather than a paper copy).

    • Yeah, I don’t have any of that at home. I don’t even own a printer, not to mention a scanner. Which is why I didn’t take a picture of the front–basically the files on the images were too big to upload.

      • MAJeff

        Would it be possible to scan and upload when you get to the office? I’d love to be able to download the whole thing to use in classes.

      • Barry Freed

        Go to the library. You can do it there. Sheesh, you professors.

  • efgoldman

    Aww crap. I was looking at Festivus presents for mrs efgoldman, and Macy’s had the biggest selection of exactly what I wanted. Now I have to find it somewhere else.
    (Last time I shopped at Macy’s was when I needed a tie for my Dad’s funeral in 2004.)

    • Coincidence, that – my grandmother passed away on this date last year, and the day after I went to Macy’s to get dark shirts for the funeral.

      I usually don’t shop there anyway, but after the last few tries to get shirts with a couple of colors I really like in my size (apparently short fat guys don’t get to wear burnt orange), this just further convinces me it isn’t even worth stepping in the store.

      • apparently short fat guys don’t get to wear burnt orange

        Here you go.

        • rea

          Short, fat guys only get to wear burnt orange in Tejas.

      • efgoldman

        I’m a short fat guy. Either I wear short sleeves, or long sleeves rolled up (not appropriate with a suit.) The only places I ever found shirts that fit properly (17×31) was in the army, and at the performance apparel place where I ordered my tux.

        • GoDeep

          My father is abt that size too. He’s a 17 X 28/29 & he likes the shirts I pick up from K&G Menswear. They have a pretty wide selection & really good prices.

    • MAJeff

      I am increasingly liking my sister’s and my tradition of making donations in each other’s names each year.

      • Bill Murray

        How is the Human Fund going?

  • fka AWS

    And, not for nothing, but the design of that pamphlet is shit. You’d think Macy’s could afford a decent graphic designer.

    • Well, since they clearly want to get away with paying their employees as little as possible, maybe all the decent graphic designers told them to shove it.

    • UserGoogol

      I want to say I heard someone talking about that “unions are a business” sentence in the context of some industry recently. (Here or Crooked Timber and it was about IT or something, which makes the sentence a bit more dissonant.) So it seems plausible that it’s just some stock pamphlet that Macy got from a third party. (Even if I’m mistaken that would make sense.) Maybe the Chamber of Commerce?

      • UserGoogol

        Or maybe Murc is the person I’m thinking of. Even if I am, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is done by someone like the Chamber of Commerce. It’s not like this mentions Macy’s anywhere.

        • “It’s not like this mentions Macy’s anywhere.”

          It does on the front side.

        • Jordan

          Haha, you are wrong.

          • UserGoogol

            Okay, so I was remembering Murc posting about this in a different thread, and apparently the pamphlet does have Macy branding on it on the front. So in that sense I was rather vigorously wrong.

          • UserGoogol

            Yeah, apparently I was just remembering Murc talking about it, and it has Macy branding on it in the parts Erik didn’t photograph. So that does put quite a lot of mud on my face.

            Still, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if separate from that, someone like Chamber of Commerce published generic (template?) pamphlets for companies to use.

      • PolitiFact

        This will make you stabby. In a good way.

        • Hogan

          So now PolitiFact is nymjacking? What is the world coming to.

          • Jordan

            They are truly evil and all-encompassing.

          • anthrofred

            I would have more respect for PolitiFact if their rulings actually did include “Stab-inducing”

    • Well, they don’t have a union bug on the pamphlet, so they’re not using a quality union printer either…

    • Tristan

      Non-union labour.

  • Jordan

    Awesome. Murc is the best.

  • Jordan

    I had to read/sign something very similar at Kmart tenish years ago. However, it was way, way less “fair” than those screenshots were. Mine was more like: I promise to never, ever join a union, no matter what.

    • Nick

      FWIW, unless you were a manager or an independent contractor, even offering you that piece of paper was probably illegal.

      • Jordan

        Well, the place did go out of business like 2 months after I quit. So possibly!

    • Linnaeus

      If you had to sign a document in which you promised not to join a union, that’s called a “yellow-dog contract”, and it’s illegal.

      • Anonymous

        You don’t have to fight for the right not to sign such a document, though; it’s guaranteed by law.

    • Alex

      This Macy’s is tepid, standard off-the-shelf stuff. Any company that doesn’t want a union is going to hand out this stuff. Completely parsed, unremarkable, and probably not very effective.

      As others point out, it is illegal to even ask an employee to agree not to join a union, a violation of 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the NLRA.

      • Jordan

        Thinking back, I’m pretty sure they didn’t require me to promise to never join a union. But they absolutely asked me not to (and, really, more than that).

        However, I’m sure they hid it with enough legalese to avoid lawsuits.

  • anthrofred

    “The right to deal directly with management”

    And oh, what a right that is! Isn’t it grand that workers can negotiate their material existence with no collective bargaining power or arbitration mechanisms with people whose profit is based completely on screwing them? Rights! Gotta love rights language.

    • It’s like if Miranda warnings started with “You have the right to confess directly to the police…”

    • Linnaeus

      It’s even funnier when you consider that management at Macy’s has the collective resources of a corporation backing it.

  • Murc

    Our valued commenter Murc took a job at Macy’s.

    The hell of it is, I’m only really doing this because I’ve been unable to find gainful employment in my chosen field (tech support) for the past four months. I don’t have a degree, but you’d think ten years of experience and significant technical writing chops would be valuable.

    But that’s beside the point. Macy’s is clearly scared enough of unions that they not only paid to have one of these thrown together (please note, though, the way they chose to bury the name of the company deep in what would be the middle of the folded document; if this were just lying on a table somewhere there’d be nothing to associate it with Macy’s) but they made a ten-minute long video about the evils of unionism I had to watch and sign off on as well. I don’t think their fears at all well founded, but it shows the mindset of our capitalist overlords.

    There are, however, some positive signs. The store I’m at, there will, hopefully, be a Thanksgiving Day en-masse no-show. It might just be big talk; a lot of these people need their jobs and are unlikely to decide to take a moral stand against being required to work on fucking Thanksgiving and risk being the one made an example of. But maybe our increasingly rapacious retail sector has finally gone a bridge too far.

    (Sidebar: Anyone considering going out to shop Thanksgiving Day is a bad person, full stop.)

    I’d like to thank Erik for taking an interest. I had just assumed that, given his profession and the fact that he’s Internet Famous, he would be swimming in this sort of anti-union materiel. This is evidently not the case. I would encourage others to contact him if they’re in possession of any other artifacts or propaganda of this nature. I can assure you that he guarantees anonymity; this post only has my nym on it as a result of my giving specific permission that he did not solicit in any way, shape, or form.

    There’s some minor risk involved; my nym is tied to my real name in two or three places, ironically enough one of them ALSO having to do with Erik. But frankly it would almost be an honor to be fired for disseminating their anti-union propaganda.

    • Jordan

      +1

    • fka AWS

      And thank you for this action. I will enjoy not shopping at Macy’s this holiday season. Anyone have good suggestions of stores or places that one might shop that are unionized?

      • Another Holocene Human

        Topical. I was just discussing holiday scheduling yesterday with an ex Macy’s manager who was quite exercised about Macy’s forcing the hourlies to work holidays, even when there was no legitimate staffing need to require them all to be there. He said pretty soon there will be no holidays, as the stores keep expanding the hours more and more. I said I don’t shop in stores on Black Friday for that reason and he said he doesn’t either. (I might go to a supermarket, but I’m not buying durable goods.) He was angry.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      totally agree with your sidebar comment.

      everybody bitches about the eeee-vil stores that make people work, but for christ’s sake how about we shoppers stay the fuck home for a change? one damn day wouldn’t kill anyone – the same crap will be there on Friday, Saturday, and if it’s not t here Sunday maybe you’ll find something better to buy

      • efgoldman

        I wouldn’t go shopping on Thanksgiving (or Xmas or New Year’s day or July 4) if everything in the store was 95% off.
        People used to make fun of us in MA (and other New England states) for our “Blue Laws” that didn’t allow most businesses to be open on Sundays or holidays. Well, be careful what you wish for.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          my local small town newspaper frequently prints very conservative letters to the editor from a retired grocery mogul who “innovated” by opening his store on Sundays. I just laugh when he starts squealing about the decline in morals – he was certainly willing to ‘corrupt’ people if there was $ in it for *him*

        • MAJeff

          North Dakota’s blue laws mandate that nothing is allowed to open before noon on Sundays. Even Wal-Mart is closed from midnight-noon.

      • GoDeep

        Yeah, I don’t understand why ppl shop on Black Friday, much less ruin T-Day doing it…I guess some ppl are just addicted to shopping. I have a couple of cousins who line up outside of Best Buy at 5am every Black Friday. I’m like there’s nothing I want that bad.

        • kgus

          Shopping on Thanksgiving makes a lot of sense for those without families. I’d love working on Thanksgiving and Christmas — but they just happen to be the only two days my workplace is closed.

          • nixnutz

            I’m with you, I have no particular reverence for Thanksgiving, obviously plenty of people need to work that day, I fail to see the big deal. Basically I don’t share that civic religion and nobody’s going to force me to. I don’t feel bad about about eating leavened bread during Passover, why should I give a fuck about Thanksgiving?

            That said I think it would be cool if Macy’s employees did manage to protest in that way. Personally I’d be happy to work but I understand it would be hard to fully staff a big store like that with willing volunteers. Obviously if you’re a nurse or a bus driver or even, as I once was, a dishwasher in a nursing home you understand that you will work holidays. Maybe Macy’s should be safe from that, maybe not, but certainly the workers should have a say.

        • Tyro

          Shopping on Black Friday is appealing because it is one of the few days during the week that people have a day off not burdened by the obligations of a holiday. Weekends can be consumed with running errands. It’s an extra day of Christmas shopping.

          • Anonymous

            I think you’re missing the point — only SOME people have the day off, or you wouldn’t be able to shop.

        • NDtU

          or lower income people would like to give their children some nice presents on Christmas and the discounts make it worth standing in line or shopping at ridiculous hours

          • pseudalicious

            Yep, that’s why my friends do it. Keeping wages low means you’re going to have a feeding frenzy on Black Friday, which means forcing your low-wage workers to work on Black Friday… good times.

    • “I can assure you that he guarantees anonymity; this post only has my nym on it as a result of my giving specific permission that he did not solicit in any way, shape, or form.”

      First lesson of union organizing is don’t put someone’s job at risk for a trivial reason. Or at least that was one of the first lessons I learned.

    • GoDeep

      Thanks for sharing your story & the pamphlet, Murc!

    • Good for you for forwarding this on, man!

      Steve

    • Anonymous

      The hell of it is, I’m only really doing this because I’ve been unable to find gainful employment in my chosen field (tech support) for the past four months. I don’t have a degree, but you’d think ten years of experience and significant technical writing chops would be valuable.

      I don’t suppose you live in the Tampa Bay Area?

      • Murc

        I do not, but I thank you for thinking what I think you’re thinking. :)

        • Malaclypse

          Do you live near Boston?

          • Murc

            I’m upstate in New York, actually, not that many hours from Scott.

            • Malaclypse

              Ah yes, upstate, where “not that many hours” away counts as close.

              Anyway, my idea won’t work, obviously.

        • Ramon A. Clef

          That was me, btw. And you’re welcome.

    • anthrofred

      Another “thanks!” for sharing the material / your experiences.

    • Anonymous37

      Macy’s is clearly scared enough of unions that they not only paid to have one of these thrown together (please note, though, the way they chose to bury the name of the company deep in what would be the middle of the folded document; if this were just lying on a table somewhere there’d be nothing to associate it with Macy’s) but they made a ten-minute long video about the evils of unionism I had to watch and sign off on as well.

      It speaks to how simultaneously jaded and naive I am that this was the part I found really surprising. The pamphlet strikes me as the sort of depressing horseshit that employees can, at least, throw away at the first opportunity. I was genuinely shocked to learn that making employees watch an anti-union video is legal. Although I honestly shouldn’t have been.

      • Bob McFlintstone

        I want to say that at an old job we had to play a board game or something at a “training” meeting

      • basement cat

        I wonder what would have happened if you would have said watching the video was against your religion.

    • Murc,
      Thanks for doing what you gone and done did! :-)

      32 years ago, right after Reagan’s election, our Sears, which had been a great place to work (I worked there for over 5 years while I was putting myself through college), started treating its employees worse and worse.

      Since I had graduated college, and was politically active, a few of us (who, for whatever reason, were considered “the smart ones”) were tasked with exploring any union options which might be available to us as retail employees.

      We made some inquiries, and set-up a preliminary meeting (obviously off-site) with one of the unions – sorry, I can’t remember which one it was.

      Well, lo-and-behold, I came in to work a few day later, even before we had met, and found that I had been unceremoniously laid-off – as had the others who had been tasked with looking into union options.

      Coincidence?
      I “fink” not!

    • Este

      Thanks for sharing this; I won’t be shopping at Macy’s or on Thanksgiving. I had no idea that was even a thing.

  • Gregor Sansa

    I know most of the people commenting here know how ridiculous this pamphlet’s claims are. But I still think somebody, somewhere should do a line-by-line rebuttal. They didn’t make this pamphlet as comedy and I’m sure they’ve tested enough to know that most people don’t read it as such.

    • Fake Irishman

      +1

    • Nick

      Yes and no. A “line by line rebuttal” still involves framing the world from the boss’s perspective, and in the long run is a losing proposition. It would be more useful to start from scratch with a “what is a union and why workers organize one” pamphlet. Although a pamphlet won’t organize anyone — it’s just a tool to get people into a conversation, which is where the organizing really happens.

    • Alex

      The pamphlet is phrased to be technically true but incomplete. For example, it is technically true that a union cannot guarantee higher wages or that employees cannot be laid off; however, on average unionized employees in most industries make more than non-union, and the presence of a union provides more protection in the event of a layoff than non-union employees have, which is little or none.

  • Gregor “Fruvous” Sansa

    He can’t stand a loss
    He’s always cross
    His name is Ross, my

    I love my boss

    I love my boss
    He isn’t full of fluff and gloss
    He gives me work and many chores to do
    My model, like Ben Cartwright to Hoss

    And though he pays me minimum wage
    It’s all I deserve at this stage
    Some union hack said I should ask for more
    I answered with suitable rage

    I love my boss
    I love my boss
    I love my boss
    I love my boss

    One day I came to work too late
    I’d had a Fruvous luncheon date
    My boss he summoned me to speak with him
    I sweated, awaiting my fate

    He said, “You’re done”
    He chased me two blocks with a gun
    But my dear boss let me apologize
    In hind site, there wasn’t a gun

    (I love my boss)
    He’s going out now with my sister
    (I love my boss)
    They go real heavy on the sauce
    (I love my boss)
    I’d like to tell him watch out mister
    But he’s the boss

    (I love my boss)
    My friends they say that I am clinging
    (I love my boss)
    Ask why I’m carrying this cross
    (I love my boss)
    Who knows what club-med will be bringing
    From dear old boss

    Examples
    (Boss)
    Bosses through the ages prove
    (My boss)
    They’re the ones who make it move
    (My boss)
    Bewitched would have an empty plate
    (My boss)
    If it weren’t for Larry Tate
    (My boss)

    Clark Kent reached the highest height
    (My boss)
    With the help of Perry White
    (My boss)
    And if we may be retrograde
    Speak the name Reuben Kincaid

    Now
    The other workers all say, “Wow”
    When I roll over and I shake a paw
    ‘Cause my boss is my brother-in-law

    I love my boss
    I love my boss
    I love my boss
    I love my boss

  • Tristan

    “Unions are a business”

    FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

  • R. Porrofatto

    Wow, this reads like a What is Communism? warning pamphlet from the 50’s. It isn’t even subtle about it.

    Does it cost money to join a union? Yes, it does. Unionism is never free.
    Do I have a choice? Absolutely. Every employee has a legal right to be for unionism, or against it.
    So consider the facts before you sign anything on behalf of unionism.

    The unionists want your money and your freedom, and all you get is lies!
    Unionism. It’s just plain evil!

    • anthrofred

      Everything sounds scarier as an ism, doesn’t it?

      • Careful with that commentism!

    • fka AWS

      And yet unions are required to represent non-members. my head doesn’t have enough desks for this pamphlet, which was why i stopped reading.

    • joe from Lowell

      I am totally not joining an organization that advocates for British rule in Northern Ireland.

      They ought to be ashamed of themselves!

      • Dan Webster

        Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!

    • Kurzleg
  • I enjoyed the speeches about Unions when I worked at Kroger. It’s tough. The Union didn’t really seem to accomplish anything there, but I wasn’t even working there long enough to join any ways. The management basically spent all day talking shit about how they couldn’t get anything done because of those darn Unions!

    I made $9 an hour working third shift… not really sure how much less Kroger wanted to pay.

    • BubbaDave

      Wanted to pay? $9 less. And they’d have gotten away for it too, if it weren’t for those meddling unions!

      • Lee Rudolph

        You can learn a lot as an unpaid intern for Kroger!!!

        • Alex

          How does one avoid being a wage slave? Easy — eliminate wages!

  • mattH

    Thanks for posting this.

  • andersonian

    Every day at my big-box store, the people who work the first shift (6am-3pm; note the required unpaid hour for lunch) have to run an inventory check for items missing from the shelves. It takes a while, and up until about 3 weeks ago had to be done by 10am. At that point, one of the store managers determined that a number of people weren’t taking the process seriously enough and so had the deadline changed to 9am. As far as I know, there was no discussion with the people on the floor about this change; it just happened.

    I’ve never belonged to a union (20 years military; what can I say?) but it seemed to me that such a significant change in the “conditions of work” would had to have been negotiated with the membership, since it had a direct effect on how their job was done. I mentioned that in the break room shortly after the change was made (“Gee, if we had a union…”) but people don’t talk about things like that inside the store. I mean, why bother?

    • NonyNony

      t that point, one of the store managers determined that a number of people weren’t taking the process seriously enough and so had the deadline changed to 9am.

      And you will notice the passive-aggressive shit that the manager does right here. Instead of confronting the employees he/she thinks are a problem directly said manager chooses to just upend the expectations of ALL Of the employees. Because that’s easier than one-on-one management.

      If you do shit like this, you are a BAD MANAGER. You should find a new job. Unfortunately, most managers are BAD at their jobs because companies don’t care enough to train them, and don’t care enough to actually hire good managers for most positions. Management is a “reward” for an employee who has put in the time and has shown basic competence at their job over the long term. It isn’t about being good at your job – it’s about being a buffer between the people who do the work day in and day out, and the people at the top who don’t want to hear about problems. And that’s why the larger a corporation gets, the more it fills up with middle management types – everyone is trying to make the complaints filtering up from below into “somebody else’s problem” and not theirs.

  • Bruce Vail

    Macy’s feels besieged by the unions, even though RWDSU, UFCW and Teamsters represent only a tiny portion of the employees.

    Macy’s (owner of Bloomingdales also) is even making a fight over the phony ‘micro unions’ issue in Massachussetts. NLRB is considering the case now.

    • What the hell is a micro-Union? What happens when employees communicate to each other?

  • Bruce Vail

    “Now, I don’t think there is any kind of campaign to organize department store workers, at least nothing I know of.”

    Macy’s/Bllomingdales is an organizing target of RWDSU and UFCW, which is precisely why they hand out these pamphlets.

    UFCW Local 5 in the Bay Area had a recent success organizing a Macy’s furniture outlet. There are also active UFCW efforts underway in the Boston, Seattle, and Washington DC areas. Likewise RWDSU expanded its jurisdiction by organizing a non-store in Queens fairly recently.

  • Thick White Dude

    Thanks for posting this.

    I’ll be canceling my Macy’s card and citing this propaganda as a reason. I’m not the greatest fan of unions but freedom of association is a basic human right.

  • aidian

    My wardrobe is getting tattered. I’ve got a bunch of cash in my pocket. There’s a Macy’s down the road that I’ve gotten good deals on good stuff from in the past. The best thing about it is it’s not the mall.

    But now I’ve got to find somewhere else to spend the $600-$800 I was going to waste on new clothes.

    • Anna in PDX

      Me too. It is my go-to clothes store and I have a Macy’s card that is several years’ standing. So much for that. Thanks to Murc for sending it and thanks to Erik for posting it.

  • Founders

    I worked for the TJX Corporation and received this same kind of material. I think it’s everywhere.

    One thing that always made me curious: they talk a lot about not joining a union. What about forming one?

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