Downtown Seattle Macy’s workers say severance offer ‘unfair’

Employees at the downtown Seattle Macy’s store are weeks away from losing their jobs and believe the company is kicking them while they’re down.

The store is currently offering shoppers huge discounts during its going out of business sale. However, workers believe the severance package they’ve been offered is unfair, especially since they consider working in downtown Seattle hazardous duty.

“The shoplifting is just bonkers now, but it wasn’t 22 years ago” when Patrick Keating started working at the then-Bon Marche.

Warehouse employee Matt Elgin said the store’s closure is “going to change my life. I’m not going to have any income.” The 30-year employee and Shoreline native told KIRO 7, he remembers visiting downtown with his family when Seattle was in its retail heyday.

Elgin blames Macy’s closure at 4th and Pine -- and loss of 230 jobs -- on crime in the area.

"Absolutely,” Elgin said Thursday. “Shoplifting is rampant in our store and it’s out of control. A lot of these businesses are going to have a hard time surviving, based on that. And with the shooting we had downtown, people are scared to come down here. So that’s going to affect the customer base for all the retailers down here.”

About a dozen Macy’s workers gathered in front of the historic storefront Thursday to protest the severance package the company has offered: one week of pay per year of service, but capped at 26 years.

Susan Hedman has worked there for 33. “Macy’s sold the upper six floors of this building for $115 million, and they have sold the rest of it for how much?” she asked. “I think they can afford to buy their soon-to-be-jobless employees some COBRA health insurance,” Hedman added.

The downtown Seattle workers are angry that laid-off employees at Macy’s Northgate and Everett stores received more money and more health insurance; especially because they believe working in downtown Seattle is more dangerous.

"Even though employees at this location face additional challenges, Macy’s would rather save a few dollars than do what’s right and give them what they have earned,” said Sarah Cherin, Executive Vice President of UFCW 21, the union that represents many store employees.

Frequent downtown shopper Sarah Smith called the store closure “heartbreaking. Anybody losing their job. What are they going to do, build another apartment building?”

She also believes the closure of a shopping site with more than 100 years of history is a bad omen for all of downtown Seattle.

“It’s going to get worse, it’s not going to get better. I love Seattle, there’s no place I’d rather live but what do they want us to see? If everything’s gone, why is anybody going to come downtown?”

Emily Workman, Director of Media Relations for Macy’s released the following statement in response to Thursday’s protest:

The decision to close a store is always difficult, and we thank our colleagues at Macy’s Downtown Seattle for their service and time. At Macy’s, we are committed to offering fair pay and benefits to all of our employees, and we believe that the severance package being offered to our Downtown Seattle colleagues reflects that. Macy’s and Bon Marche have proudly served our customers and the Downtown Seattle community for the past 90 years, and we look forward to continuing to serve our customers at nearby Macy’s Bellevue Square, Alderwood, Southcenter and the Redmond Furniture Gallery, as well as online at macys.com.

Follow this link to see a history of the Bon Marche in downtown Seattle from HistoryLink.org.

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