Over the past two years, we have seen minimum wage hikes in states and cities (such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and Emeryville) across the country as labor groups push for a universal $15 per hour minimum wage. With the presidential elections coming, organized labor is reinvigorating its battle to increase the minimum wage and is targeting the retail industry through a national television advertising campaign criticizing retail jobs and retail employers. Retailers are not, however, sitting back passively. The largest industry group representing retailers—the National Retail Federation (NRF) —is fighting back on their behalf and has launched its own advertising counterattack on national television.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union ran two ads during the October 13 Democratic presidential primary debate criticizing retail jobs and retail employers with lines like “This is life for retail workers in America.” and “For retail workers everywhere, the time has come for real change.” In response, NRF ran its own ads on November 14 during the Democratic presidential primary debate. These two 30-second ads, called “My Story” and “Our Story,” showcase the statistics and stories of retail workers. NRF has also created a special section on its website, “This Is Retail,” where readers can “[e]xplore stories about retail careers, community and innovation.” According to NRF President Matthew Shay, NRF’s ad campaign “marks the first of many efforts leading into 2016 where we will engage at multiple levels to make sure that the true voice of retail is heard and that elected officials support policies that contribute to a vibrant, healthy, and robust retail industry that benefits the U.S. economy.”
The wage issue will undoubtedly be top of mind for retail employees as we head into the busy holiday season, and organized labor will look to make organizing inroads through this issue. Retailers should keep their ears to the ground both inside their stores and in the media, including social media, as this battle continues to play out.