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Retail Worker Safety Act passes New York Assembly

By Vivian Hendriksz


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RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum champions the Retail Worker Safety Act, surrounded by members and Retail Workers from across New York State on March 5, 2024, as part of the campaign to pass the act Credits: RWDSU

The New York Assembly passed the Retail Worker Safety Act last night, as retailer workers across the state face increasing violence and harassment in the workplace.

The Act, a proposal for a workplace safety bill backed by retail unions in New York state, including Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), seeks to mandate retail stores to adopt new workplace safety protocols in response to increasing concerns about violence against retail employees and in public areas.

The Retail Worker Safety Act will require the NYS Department of Labor to create a model risk assessment and training program. Corporate retail establishments with ten workers or more will have to adopt this violence prevention plan (or create their own) and provide employees with training on how to de-escalate situations and active shooters.

Concerns for retail worker safety leads to critical workplace safety bill in New York

Under the Act, retailers would be required to conduct regular formal risk assessments, provide said training, and keep records of violent incidents annually. The Act also calls on large retail employers with 50 employees or more to install panic buttons throughout their stores.

The passing of the Retail Worker Safety Act comes as more and more retail workers face violence in the workplace. According to a survey carried out by the RWDSU, more than 80 percent of respondents are worried about an active shooter coming into their workplace.

Close to two-thirds of those surveyed by the RWDSU reported experiencing verbal harassment or some form of intimidation in the workplace from a customer, colleague, or manager within the last year. What’s more, only 7 percent of respondents felt that their employer had made changes in their workplace following a violent incident to make their work and workplace safer.

Almost three-quarters of respondents indicated they would feel safer if they received regular training on how to be and feel safe in their workplace, including how to better understand the risks of violence and harassment, how to reduce them, and what to do in the case of facing violence.

What’s more, the Violence Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center funded by the National Institute of Justice, has identified workplaces as the most common sites for mass shootings, defined as incidents where four or more people are killed by firearms. From 1966 to 2021, the Violence Project recorded 53 workplace shootings across the country, accounting for over 30 percent of the 188 mass shootings during that period.

Retail locations, such as stores, were the second most common sites, comprising 16.9 percent of mass shootings, followed by restaurants and bars at 13.4 percent, underlining how retail violence is a growing workplace issue that must be addressed.

“Today’s passage of the Retail Worker Safety Act in the New York Assembly is a critical step towards common sense safety measures for retail workers across New York. When the bill is signed into law, basic protections will be provided for both workers and customers,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of RWDSU. “Throughout this campaign, we have heard deeply troubling workers’ stories from all over the state - stories of violent crimes, senseless shootings, and harassment.”

“Workers in retail stores in New York should never have to experience anything like this. One thing is for certain, however: employers can and should do more to protect their employees. That’s why we’re championing this critical law, which requires that retail employers take full responsibility to protect their workers from violence. Retail workers should not go to work every day in fear. Let’s tackle the issue of retail workplace safety and swiftly pass the Retail Worker Safety Act in the New York Senate now.”

Together with other members of RWDSU, Appelbaum has pushed for the passing of the bill across the state since it was introduced this session. The bill now awaits passage in the New York Senate.

New York
Retail Worker Safety Act
worker safety
Workers Rights