Zara is one of the biggest, most successful fast fashion retailers in the world. The brand’s runway-inspired pieces still possess the refinement and coolness of something you’d find from a high-end range, except you don’t have to shill out copious amounts of cash for it. Zara’s a godsend to fashionphiles everywhere — and the chain’s got the profits to prove it. Amancio Ortega, owner of parent company Inditex, is the third richest man in the world thanks to the retailer, sitting on a fortune of about $63 billion.
You would think that with such a successful business, Zara would be able to pay its salespeople — the ones who constantly stock the store and help customers — well enough for their work. According to a new petition, that isn’t the case.
Sharlene, a sales associate at a Zara in New York City, has launched a petition with the aim to #ChangeZara, in particular, reform its policies so that associates can have a better quality of life and more chances to move up in the company. Sharlene started working at Zara in 2012, but mentions that this past winter, things dramatically changed for her and the other shopgirls on the floor. Their hours were cut significantly — down to a maximum of 25 per week, which Sharlene said for her, turned into clocking only 16 hours each week. This is an experience several Zara employees working on the floor have, she says, adding that many girls have skipped meals in order to ease the financial burden. “We earn so little at Zara that many of us can’t even afford to buy the clothes that we sell,” she writes.
According to the petition, Zara workers in Spain are more protected than they are here in America. “Inditex signed an agreement with a global federation of unions, UNI, promising to respect workers’ rights in their stores and factories. Zara workers in Spain have a union that grants them rights and benefits that we don’t have — don’t we deserve the same respect here in the U.S.?”
Sharlene fails to mention exactly which rights and benefits she’s referring to. Still, with associates only being allowed 25 hours a week, she points out that the maximum one can make in a year is a little over $13,000. That’s definitely not enough to live on, especially if you’re living in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the country.
She also notes that there are few opportunities for people of color to move up in the company. Most of the management is white, she says, and those full-time positions provide enough revenue to live on.
Sharlene’s petition has garnered about 1,040 signatures out of the 2,000 goal she put forth. As it always goes for working in retail, the hours are long and the pay is definitely not great. But the bottom line is that the slashed hours and lack of opportunity for advancement does pose a problem for the workers. Sharlene says her manager explained that Obamacare is the reason why they are unable to work the types of hours they used to. Still, it doesn’t seem fair that the welfare and livelihoods of the employees are jeopardized because a multibillion-dollar company has to cough up extra cash to pay for the U.S.’s reformed healthcare policies. It’s simply a way to cut corners, and the workers end up paying dearly for it.