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Retail Action Project Stages Protest at Juicy Couture Flagship in N.Y.

Petition claims that the retailer has been laying off full-time workers and making them part-time employees to avoid paying health benefits and paid sick days.

PROTESTING FOR HOURS: An inflated gray rat, dozens of pink balloons and more than 35 people staged a protest Thursday outside Juicy Couture’s Manhattan flagship at 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue, chanting loudly and handing out fliers to passersby. A petition with 5,000 signatures was delivered to Juicy Couture claiming that the retailer has been laying off full-time workers and making them part-time employees to avoid paying health benefits and paid sick days, said Carrie Gleason, executive director of Retail Action Project, which organized the “Just Hours” event.

“We’re seeing a part-timing of the workforce and it’s happening across the country,” said Gleason. She noted that, according to a recent Juicy Couture store schedule, only 19 of the store’s 128 employees are full-time, and workers reported that all part-timers’ hours were capped at 21 per week.

What’s going on at Juicy is also happening at stores such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J.C. Penney and Banana Republic, alleged Gleason. “The involuntary part-time workforce has doubled since 2006. There’s a crisis in underemployment. There’s no reason for that other than a cheap labor strategy and that’s not what this country needs,” she said.

Jane Randel, senior vice president, corporate communications at Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc., Juicy’s parent, said, “The Retail Action Project has got it completely wrong across the board, and if they knew the facts about jobs and hours at Juicy Couture, they would direct their efforts somewhere more appropriate.”

According to Randel, Juicy currently has more full-time and fewer part-time employees than in December. In addition, hours for both full-time and part-time employees are consistent with comparable periods in prior years. She said that while they do not share specific staffing levels, their ratio of full-timers to part-timers has increased since a year ago. Juicy has more than twice the number of full-time employees at the Fifth Avenue store than the Retail Action Project claims, and they have made no new effort to cap hours, she said.