RWDSU Union Members to Support New York’s Retail Workers Safety Act

SAFEGUARDING STORE EMPLOYEES: Supporters of the Retail Workers Safety Act will be making the legislation’s case on Tuesday in Albany, as companies continue to express concern over retail theft and violence.

Retail workers, union members and leaders from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union will travel to host a press conference and lobby for the legislation. A few dozen people from the union will be making the trip upstate, including RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, according to a RWDSU spokesperson. Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and its Locals 1-S, 1102, 3, and 338 are expected to offer firsthand accounts of retail violence in support.

In recent weeks, robbers stole approximately $51,000 worth of merchandise during a late morning robbery in Gucci’s Meatpacking District store (no arrests have been made). Last month a 15-year-old suspect, Alejandro Rivas-Figueroa, was arrested and charged as an adult for allegedly shooting a Brazilian tourist in a Times Square sneaker store, after aiming for the security guard who had stopped him and two teenage friends for shoplifting.

Eighty percent of respondents to a RWDSU survey indicated concern about having an active shooter in their stores. The proposal states that employers have a positive obligation to create a safe work environment for retail workers, and would require a risk evaluation of the workplace; the development of a workplace violence prevention plan; ongoing safety training for workers; documentation of any violent workplace incidents; and an annual reevaluation of the store’s violence prevention plan. 

Last fall, the National Retail Federation organized a “Fight Retail Crime Day” to draw attention to the issue. The organization is vocal about members’ increasing concerns about organized retail theft, the threat of in-store violence and upswings in shoplifting. Shrink resulted in $112 billion in losses for retailers, according to the NRF.

Incidents of shoplifting in the five boroughs have been increasing in recent years, according to statistics provided by the NYPD. In 2022, there were 63,708 shoplifting complaints in New York City, versus 43,892 in 2021 and 32,351 in 2021, according to the most recent annual statistics from the NYPD that are available. Some argue that shoplifting is an under-reported crime and others contend that it is overestimated based on media coverage of more brazen incidents like smash-and-grab robberies.

A few shopping malls including South Carolina’s new Coastal Ground Mall now require adult supervision for those under 18 during select hours. And as of Friday, shoppers under the age of 18 will need an adult chaperone after 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, Calif. A recent brawl among teenagers that resulted in five arrests and three injuries prompted the initiative.

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