Zara Workers Win Wage Increases In New York City

Zara employee Jedidiah Labinjo and others protesting in New York City CREDIT: RETAIL ACTION PROJECT

Zara has agreed to give New York City employees a raise, after a worker campaign that urged the company to respect its U.S. workforce.

In a letter shared with ThinkProgress, the company informed New York City employees that wages would be increasing and stores would be adding more full-time positions. Zara workers had launched the Change Zara campaign asking for higher pay and better scheduling at U.S. stores. In May, workers delivered a petition with about 1,500 signatures to multiple stores. “They’re a global company and pretty much everywhere outside the United States they do recognize a union, but they don’t do that here in the U.S.,” explained Janna Pea, a spokeswoman for the Retail Action Project, which has supported the workers’ campaign.

According to the letter sent to employees, starting sometime in January those who have been at the company less than a year will make at least $12 an hour, while those with one to three years at the company will get $13 and those with more than three years will get $14. It also says it will increase the number of full-time positions and promote eligible employees to that status, although it doesn’t say how many will be made available. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment or explanation.

Pea credits the campaign for bringing about the wage increases. “This is coming off the heels of the push for the company to do more,” she said.

Jedidiah Labinjo, who’s been a sales associate at Zara’s SoHo location for a little over a year and started the petition, agrees. “I believe that because of this Change Zara campaign we were able to have this change happen,” he said. “We were able to get a little portion of what we expected.”

His letter said that his pay is supposed to go from $10.50 an hour to $13, although he’s not ready to count any chickens before they hatch. “It’s definitely a good start,” he said of the letter. “However, it’s not all set in stone… They can give [raises] and take them away just as fast.” He noted that the letter doesn’t indicate exactly when raises will go into effect and with the holiday season over they may increase pay while cutting hours. “I can’t say I’m getting $13 until I’m actually getting $13,” he added.

But if he does get $13 an hour it could mean some big changes. He’s currently in a weekly rental, but with the raise “I could get a monthly, I could pitch in a little bit more as far as things around the house,” he said. While he’s been trying to help out with bills on his current wage, it hasn’t left him any extra. “Now that I’ve got to give money for bills I can’t go out to eat, I can’t really do what young people do,” he said. A higher wage “does put a little extra money in my pocket, it does help me out.”

Not to mention that he’s a student studying pre-law, but he wasn’t able to afford classes this semester. “I wanted to go but I couldn’t,” he said. “I’ll have to wait until the summer semester or spring semester. Hopefully financial aid will cover some of it so it won’t have to come out of my pocket again.”

Even if workers do see wage increases, they’re not done pushing the company, he said. “We need to continue to push with actions and continue to push the envelope so that we can have these things set in stone,” he said. They’re going to keep pushing for “an agreement with workers and management.”

But this isn’t the campaign’s first victory. “We used to have on-call shifts where they used to put you down as a shift but you weren’t too sure if you were going to work, you’d have to call in an hour or two before work,” he said. “With the campaign…we were able to eliminate that.” And he feels the campaign has successfully raised awareness. “Obviously for those who set this letter, they’re also aware,” he said. “The people on the top are aware as well.”