I began my career with this union about 45 years ago. At 16 I started working part time at a small drive-in milk store in Patchogue, NY called Dairy Barn. It just so happened that this chain of 64 milk stores on Long Island was under contract with the Retail Clerks Union Local 1500. It was the beginning of a dream come true ride that would culminate with me becoming the President of our great union. In college I was studying to become a meteorologist and I continued to work part-time at Dairy Barn. I guess the company liked me because I became full- time pretty quickly and a short time later I became a store manager. That’s about the time I abandoned the idea of becoming a weatherman!
I had no idea what a union really did at that time, but I soon found out. I met my future wife Beverly because I worked at Dairy Barn. She would drive through on my shift every night which I thought that was kind of strange, especially because she didn’t always buy something. I finally figured out, with the help of one of my part timers (thank goodness), that she liked me, so one night I decided to ask her out and she actually said yes! That was 38 wonderful years ago. A year and half later we were married and had our 2 beautiful children, Carissa and Derrick.
I realized the value of my union early on because we had great health care that took care of my growing family. I was able to use our legal service plan to help buy a house and offset the cost. I knew when I was going to get a raise and how much it would be. I knew I had a pension plan that would help take care of me in retirement (I will talk more about that in a little while).
I really began my union career when our contract was going to expire. I started to become more involved with our union and was elected to my first union negotiating committee. It was a very tough negotiation and for the first time in my life I learned what a strike was. How did I know that you ask? Because guess what--we had to go out on strike! We walked the picket line for four days and then ultimately reached a deal. It wasn’t easy but we did get a pretty good contract. Years later, I was elected again to the negotiating committee and we wound up on strike again, this time for 3 weeks. It was extremely tough, and I didn’t really know how this one was going to end, but we all stayed together and eventually we won that strike as well.
I was asked to become a Union Executive Board member in 1979 and, as they say, the rest is history. Back then the Union President was my mentor Frank Meehan. One day Frank called me and offered me a job as an organizer, and I accepted. I was hired In August of 1986 and held that position for over 2 years. Over the last 3 decades plus I served as a union representative, the Political Director, Field Director, Assistant to the President, Secretary-Treasurer and finally, President. It really has been my honor to serve as your President these last 3 and ½ years. I have also been the Plan manager for the Local 1500 Pension, Welfare, Annuity and Scholarship Funds.
Some of you know that I have had some minor health issues recently and that has led me to make a very tough decision. I have spoken at length with our Secretary-Treasurer Rob Newell and I made the decision to resign as President. My resignation took effect as of November 8th, 2019 and I am proud to announce that I asked the Executive Board to unanimously elect Rob Newell to fulfill my unexpired term. Rob has been my right hand for years and I can’t thank him enough for putting up with me and making my job a lot easier. Not only are you in great hands, but I believe you are in the right hands to run this Union going forward, and I expect that you will give him your support and your respect. I would also like to thank my assistant, Joe Waddy, for also always being there for me, keeping me on schedule and making sure that I knew what I was talking about. To Aly Waddy, who is only one person, but does like 5 jobs for the Local, thank you for your help, your passion and sharing a love of politics with me for all these years. To the rest of Executive Staff Rhonda Nelson, Terry Quinones and Paul Santarpia, I want to thank you all as well.
I will retire at the end of 2020 and will continue to be the plan manager of the Pension and Welfare funds until then. I will serve as the Senior Advisor to President Newell throughout his transition, as well as work on politics for the Local for the next year or so. So, this isn’t goodbye yet, it’s more like, I’ll see you soon. Those of you that know me from my old Political Director days know that I was always out looking for volunteers from our stores and I assure you that’s going to happen again soon. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for allowing me to have the honor of serving as your President and I will see you in the stores in 2020!