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Campaigning from our U.S. affiliate, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) has led to a landmark Retail Safety Worker Act in the state of New York, designed to protect commerce workers in a time of escalating and deadly violence.

The Act, which needs to be signed New York Governor to be made into law, requires corporate retail employers to adopt a violence prevention plan and train workers in de-escalation and active shooters, while large employers must install panic buttons throughout the workplace.

RWDSU championed the critical, commonsense, safety bill with actions all over New York State after it was introduced in January 2024. The bill, sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember Karines Reyes, was finally passed on 7 June by 41 votes to 19.

Stuart Appelbaum, RWDSU President said:

“There’s no time to waste. We urge the Governor of New York to sign this critical safety act into law as soon as possible. Retail workers are living in fear from violence at work and we believe the measures introduced in this bill, which was drafted after extensive consultations with workers, will improve safety and save lives.”

Employers with ten or more employees must do the following to create a safe working environment:

  1. Adopt a retail workplace violence prevention policy that identifies factors that put retail workers at risk of violence, and outlines methods to prevent violence. 
  1. Provide annual training for employees on de-escalation tactics, active shooter drills, emergency procedures, use of panic buttons and more.
  1. The Department of Labor will develop templates for the violence prevention policy and trainings to facilitate employer compliance.
  1. All retail employers with more than 500 employees nationwide must install panic buttons at easily accessible locations throughout the building, or offer wearable or mobile-phone based panic buttons to all employees. Pressing the panic button immediately contacts emergency services.

 More details on the health and safety requirements can be found here.

A survey conducted with the RWDSU members found that over 80 per cent of retail workers are worried about active shooters coming into their workplace, and 88 per cent said they would feel safer if a silent panic button was installed. Only 7 per cent of workers report their employer has made changes in the workplace after a violent incident in order to make their work safer. Furthermore, 57 per cent of workers have experienced verbal harassment or intimidating conduct from a customer, co-worker, or manager within the last year. Seventy-two per cent of workers would feel safer if they received regular training on how to be safe in the workplace, including understanding the risks they face, how to reduce those risks and what to do in the event violence occurs.

Mathias Bolton, Head of UNI Commerce, said:

“RWDSU has ensured that this legislation acknowledges the sad reality for workers on the frontlines of commerce in the U.S. today. The act will force employers take responsibility for their employees’ safety and provide protections from gun violence, as well as many other types of harassment and violence, which are a menace to commerce workers the world over.”



UNI Americas

United States