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Strike looms at Macy's famous New York store

Workers at Macy's flagship store in New York City are threatening to strike if there is no new contract by a midnight deadline.

The store, a Manhattan tourist hot spot on 34th Street, has not had a strike since 1972.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents the 5,000 workers including the 3,500 from the store, said contested issues include health care, unpredictable schedules, and pension plans for senior employees.

Three other area stores may strike as well.

"Fireworks are nice, but if Macy's wants to be a responsible member of the New York community, they have to make sure that the people they employ are able to afford to live in the city," Mr Appelbaum said, referring to its annual July 4 show.

"Macy's is an iconic New York institution. What happens in these negotiations will set the trend for the city and for the country."

Macy's sees the threat of the strike as real and has placed ads in local newspapers including The New York Times seeking temporary workers. Macy's spokeswoman Elina Kazan says negotiations are ongoing.

"We are committed to keeping the lines of communication open and continuing the talks round-the-clock with the goal of reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable both for our workers and the company," Ms Kazan said.

The ads seeking temporary workers are a "standard but necessary practice" to ensure preparedness in the event of a strike.

The employment dispute comes as Macy's struggles with slowing sales growth and intensifying competition on all fronts.

Shoppers increasingly spend more of their money at places like TJ Maxx, and other discounters, or they do not spend money in stores at all, with the online revolution threatening the traditional retail landscape.

Industry watchers believe that Amazon could become America's biggest clothing merchant by next year, dethroning Macy's.

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