Report: Discrimination plagues NYC retail industry

Jay Cole said his hours were cut after five months of working at Abercrombie & Fitch.

Retail giants in New York City may have enjoyed record sales this holiday season, but a new report claims they’re not paying it forward to their employees.

A startling joint report released today by the Retail Action Project, a retail worker advocacy group, and CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies surveyed 436 nonmanagement workers in New York’s retail industry in fall of 2011. They found that race and gender played an important role in determining workers’ pay and working conditions.

For example, the median pay for a female employee per hour was $9, while male counterparts brought home a median of $10.13 per hour.

The study also found pay disparity among racial groups: Of workers sampled, the average hourly pay of a white employee was $11.30, versus $10.49 for black employees and $9.45 for Latino employees.

“It’s getting harder and harder to get by on these retail jobs,” said Carrie Gleason, director of the Retail Action Project. “Workers are seeing their wages and benefits shrinking. [Retail companies] encourage turnover instead of career growth.”

Jay Cole, an 18-year-old African-American high school student who works as a cashier part-time at Abercrombie & Fitch on Fifth Avenue, told Metro he saw his schedule halved after working five months at the company. Statistically, black and Latino workers were more likely than white workers to get their hours reduced or changed without their consent, according to the report.

“The scheduling is no good,” said Cole, who lives in Bed-Stuy and supports himself on his wages.
“Now they only give us two days a week. A select few get five days and some new people get six days. It’s not fair. They don’t care.”

Abercrombie & Fitch did not respond by deadline.

Not all equal?

According to the report, not all is equal among New York City shop workers:
There are 242,000 retail workers in New York City.
Only 17 percent of survey participants have a regular schedule.
54 percent of white workers received a raise and promotion after working at least six months on the job, while only 39 percent of black workers, and 28 percent of Latino workers did, after working for the same time period.
Median wages for immigrants were 50 cents less than U.S. born workers.
Male respondents were more likely than female respondents to receive health benefits and paid time off.

Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro


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