Contact: Yana Walton
New York, NY – Employees at Forever 21 are fighting back against a devastating new policy enacted by the fast-fashion retail chain last week. Last week, Forever 21 sent a letter to all non-managerial full time workers, terminating their health insurance, paid time off, and capping their hours as part-time workers, under 30 hours per week. Workers only had few days of advance notice that their health insurance coverage was ending, their benefits were taken away, that they’d get smaller paychecks, and would no longer be able to earn any paid time off.
A Forever 21 employee and member of the Retail Action Project (RAP) has started a public petition on Coworker.org, demanding a reversal to the policy and asking that their hours and benefits are restored immediately. Forever 21 workers have joined the Just Hours Campaign to address the underemployment crisis caused by corporate retailers’ unpredictable, part-time scheduling practices, adding Forever 21 to the campaign’s list of worst players.
Forever 21 joins the Just Hours Campaign’s list of worst players, and members from the Retail Action Project from Forever 21 are uniting to stop these practices. They’ve started a petition on Coworker.org to ask Forever 21 to reinstate family sustaining jobs.
The petition’s author writes:
I just started working at Forever 21 in New York City, but now I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to work there, because I need a job that I can actually survive on. When I first applied for the job, I was promised growth and working with the visual team to become a merchandiser. They explained I would be learning and growing and starting off in sales with full time hours. However when I was hired, I suddenly found myself cleaning and organizing the stock room in a part-time position. When I asked what happened with the position I applied for I was brushed off and ignored. I didn’t realize that the company treats their employees like that, and now Forever 21 is essentially ending full-time employment for non-management employees altogether.
Hartley McNeil, another Forever 21 worker and RAP member is also devastated by the news. He is currently a part-time worker who says “Now I know there isn’t an opportunity for me to have a decent job with benefits at Forever 21. I work hard and I’ve really wanted to grow with the company. But the way they’re treating us shows that they don’t value our work or respect our lives. It’s really wrong.”
Sasha Hammad, Interim Director of the Retail Action Project says “The replacement of good full-time jobs with unpredictable part-time positions is fueling a crisis of underemployment. Imagine having a sick child or a chronic illness, then finding out that in a few days, your health insurance will terminated, your paychecks will be smaller, and you won’t have any paid time off to take care of your medical issues – All because you are now part time.”
According to RAP and CUNY Murphy Institute’s 2012 study of retail workers in NYC, “Discounted Jobs,” 49% of employees are scheduled for fewer hours in a week than they would like. 42% of the employees also reported that managers reduce or change their hours without their consent. Nationally, the retail industry is a top growth sector for new jobs, with one in nine workers relying on retail jobs. Yet the industry is also responsible for leaving workers involuntarily underemployed: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of involuntary part‐time workers in the retail sector has more than doubled since 2006.
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The Just Hours Campaign aims to restore the fair workweek through stable, predictable and livable work hours.