UNITE HERE, a union that represents workers in the apparel, textile, hotel, and restaurant industries, has just launched a campaign against clothing chain Zara. Zara workers in a downtown Montreal store joined UNITE HERE in 2007 to fight bad working conditions at their store, including unpredictable schedules, short staffing, favouritism by bosses, and disregard for seniority.
According to UNITE HERE, however, Zara has fought back, using tactics that may have violated the Quebec labour code: four workers who supported the union at Zara’s Rockland Mall store were fired in April and May 2008; two workers who led a union drive at Zara’s downtown Montreal store were demoted in August 2007; and management held anti-union meetings at three of their Montreal stores, telling workers that joining a union would be “treason” – in fact, it’s their legal right.
These are old, dirty, anti-labour tricks that need to be stopped, especially in the retail sector, which employs a disproportionate number of young women in low-wage work (see graph below). It takes a lot of guts to fight back against an employer that’s being a bully (I should know, I’ve been on strike against York University for the past six weeks), and these workers need our support.