Retail workers vote to form Florida’s first H&M union

There are 15 unionized H&M store locations in New York, but no others in Florida.

click to enlarge An H&M clothing store inside a mall. - Shutterstock
An H&M clothing store inside a mall.
Retail workers at an H&M clothing store in Melbourne overwhelmingly voted to unionize Friday, forming a historic first H&M union in the state of Florida.

According to Will Cox, an organizer with the United Food and Commercial Workers, the election was secured by a supermajority of workers at the Melbourne Square Mall store, who voted in favor of unionization on Friday.

The Swedish fast-fashion retailer has 15 locations unionized with the UFCW in New York, but in Florida — which has 21 H&M store locations — this is a first. In Florida, just 6 percent of all workers had union representation as of 2023, compared to 21 percent of workers in the Empire State.

Ed Chambers, president of the UFCW Local 1625 in Florida, told Orlando Weekly that workers at the Melbourne store first reached out to their international union earlier this year.

The international then directed the H&M workers to Chambers’ local, which represents about 8,100 workers across Florida, including warehouse workers and drivers for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, as well as florists, catering and merchandise workers, and Fairy Godmother’s apprentices at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disney World in Orlando.

Chambers, a former president of the Service Trades Council Union — representing Disney World employees — told Orlando Weekly in April that H&M retail and merchandising associates came to the union with a desire to advocate for better pay and for more opportunities to secure full-time hours, as well as the job benefits that can come with that, such as healthcare.

Job postings at H&M stores in Florida list hourly pay rates only just above Florida’s minimum wage, ranging between $13.50 an hour for a part-time sales associate position in Orlando to $17.45 an hour on the high end for a visual merchandiser.

Realistically, that's well below the bare minimum income a working adult would need to live comfortably in most parts of the state, let alone larger metro areas. The workers' employer, Hennes & Mauritz AB (also known as H&M Group) meanwhile reported $22 billion in clothing and accessories sales last year, according to Reuters, but has struggled to meet the challenge of rising competition from other fast-fashion companies. The company is eyeing cost-cutting measures, including store closures overseas, and changing up the prices of their merchandise.

A 2023 report from the U.S. Treasury outlined some of the benefits that can come from union representation, including higher wages, a reduction in gender and racial wage gaps, and stronger fringe benefits such as retirement plans and more predictable scheduling. Unions can also have positive spillover effects into the rest of the workforce and economy, improving standards for workers industry-wide.

Up in New York, unionized H&M workers have secured a union contract guaranteeing paid time off, medical coverage and sick days, according to the union.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees union elections, the U.S. saw a 35 percent increase in petitions filed for union elections in the first half of the 2024 fiscal year — indicating an uptick in new organizing activity nationwide.

With the election vote Friday, about 20 full-time and part-time H&M workers at the Melbourne Square Mall location will be joining the UFCW, once the results are formally certified. After that, the union will work with the employer to negotiate a union contract.

Subscribe to Orlando Weekly newsletters.

Follow us: Apple News | Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | or sign up for our RSS Feed


Since 1990, Orlando Weekly has served as the free, independent voice of Orlando, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an Orlando Weekly Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, with a focus on state and local government, workers' rights, and housing issues. Previously worked for WMNF Radio in Tampa. You can find her bylines in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, In These Times, Strikewave, and Facing South among other publications.
Scroll to read more Florida News articles

Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.