This is YOUR Union

By: Tony Speelman

I want to begin my first column as President by saying how much of an honor it is for me to serve as President of your union. I specifically say your, because it is your union. It is not mine, nor is it the staff or the union representatives that make this the best and biggest grocery workers union in New York. It’s you. I’ve felt this way since I became a Local 1500 member in the 1960’s, working nights at Dairy Barn while going to college. When I was asked if I would join the negotiating committee at a young age, I jumped at the opportunity because there was nothing more I wanted to do than stick up and fight for my coworkers and their families. That fire in me led us to negotiating three outstanding contracts for my coworkers and their families. That fire in me still burns today, and I promise to lead this union to bigger and better places.

I don’t know what former President Frank Meehan saw in me, but he hired me over 30 years ago to join the staff of Local 1500. On staff I’ve held every position possible. I moved from position of Organizer, to Union Rep. to Political Director to Field Director. Then Frank promoted me to become his assistant. As Assistant to the President, Frank mentored me on every aspect of this union. I then became Executive Vice-President, and in 2009 became Secretary-Treasurer after Lenny Salvo retired.

Until now, I never thought for a second, as a kid working part-time for Dairy Barn that I would one day be President of this great union. I couldn't be more honored and thankful to all the people who have helped me get here today. I cannot thank Frank Meehan enough for all the guidance he gave me through the years; he is truly, truly missed. In his honor I have made the decision to dedicate the entire Local 1500 building to former President Frank Meehan. Going forward it will now be known as Frank Meehan Hall. I would also like to thank former President Bruce Both, whom I have worked beside for nearly 30 years. He served our union well for 11 and-a-half years, guiding us through some very difficult times. I wish he and his wife Linda a happy and well-deserved retirement.  I learned a great deal of what it takes to be a leader through good times and bad times from these two former Presidents.

I encourage you to read the next few pages about our new team. I congratulate newly elected Secretary-Treasurer Rob Newell who has been my right hand the last few years. Rob started out his career pushing carts for Pathmark, and there is not a person who cares more for the well being of this union than he. Congratulations to my new Assistant to the President, Joe Waddy, and new Field Director Paul Santarpia. Both positions are well deserved. These two men have a deep passion to help Local 1500 members.

But this isn’t about me, or our new staff alignment. This is about you and this will always be about you. This is about how our new union team can help every single member make his or her life better.

We have enormous battles ahead of us. The last few weeks and upcoming months I am making it a priority to listen to you, the members of this great union. For you to voice your concerns on how we can do a better job, how we can help make your jobs safer, and families lives better.

We will be making it it a priority increase and better the scheduling for part-time workers, so they can better balance their family and personal lives.  I, along with 40 Local 1500 members, have already traveled to Albany, NY in May to lobby our politicians and tell them what legislation they need to pass to help our lives. This will be a big part of my vision for this union.  We will secure our pensions and keep companies from pushing 401k gimmicks on us. Let me make one thing clear: companies like Pick Quick Key Food (page 8), push 401k’s because they save them enormous amounts of money. NOT because it’s a better option for workers. 401ks run out, they have an expiration date. Defined benefit pensions, don't. We want to make sure your tireless work throughout the grocery industry isn’t overlooked, but is rewarded with a pension that you and your families can depend on.

 We will make this union a bigger and better one. I promise you that.  Thank you again and please, I encourage you to follow me on twitter @Aspeel1500 and contact me for anything you may need.

Thanks again, it is truly an honor to be the seventh president of this great union.