I used to worry about getting to work on time every day. I had to serve my customers and do it well at Dairy Barn because I needed my job. I worried about my new born children and my wife and wondered often if I was making the best decisions for their future. Now my kids are adults and I think I worry about them even more. In 1986 when I started working at Local 1500 I added more concern as I started to worry about the members. After all I was a member just a few months before. I knew what it felt like to work, to be an employee and a Union member. I knew I had to make sure I treated the members I represented with the care and attention I always wanted.
To my wife’s chagrin, I woke up one day in 2000 and decided to run for town council. Apparently, I didn’t think I had enough to worry about and wanted to add the entire town of Brookhaven to my list. Thankfully I lost, and focused on starting to move up through the ranks of 1500. When I became Secretary-Treasurer of Local 1500 in 2009 I became responsible for the finances of the Union. Money coming in, money going out, trying to make sure I did the right thing by the membership. Without fail…. That is worrisome. Now I’m the president of this great Union. That means I am responsible for about 20,000 members. Correction…that means I am responsible for 20,000 members AND their families. So, I come to work every morning at Meehan Hall wondering what the day will bring. Will there be another store closing to be announced today? Are there lay-offs needed somewhere that I’m going to get a call about? What new non-union company is coming to town today? Which company is next up to try and take away some of our members hard earned benefits? How did our Pension Fund do this month? How much money do we need to ensure everyone continues to get the medical they deserve? How do we battle the onslaught of technology and automation as your employer’s search for new ways to cut their labor budgets to unrecognizable levels? How are my field and office staff holding up? Can we afford to add more staff?
These are just a fraction of the questions I worry about daily. However, most are questions that have been asked before, and always need to be addressed. So, it’s really nothing new around here. My mentor was the late, great Frank Meehan. I would sit in his office, or drive him to meetings and watch as he handled anything that came his way. Not just with ease, but with class and with conviction. I remember thinking that one day all this responsibility may very well land on my shoulders. Thanks to the hard work of my predecessors, I was prepared when my time came. One of the most important lessons I learned as a president is—you can’t do it all on your own. You surround yourself with a team and let then all help make good things happen. Now I look back to the days of being in those rooms with Frank and realize that I was a part of his team, and we were GOOD.
Now can I control Union density or market share? No. What about the stock market or ever-changing labor laws that make it challenging for us to negotiate new benefits or organize? No, but I still worry about it all, though. However, one thing I do not worry about is the level of confidence I have in my team to get the job done. For years we have crafted a team of individuals that, when they work together, can handle almost anything that comes our way. From our recent organizing victory at Hale and Hearty, to overcoming huge challenges during negotiating contracts for SRS, Glass, and Mannix Shop Rite’s our team has accomplished a great deal over the last year. We have also made incredible strides in servicing our members better and expanding our media and communications efforts. My team is right there with me every step of the way.
As this year quickly moves along we are getting ready to begin negotiations with Stop & Shop, King Kullen and Tops. We feel confident that we will once again be able to deliver solid contracts that you can all be proud of. With the recent settlements at Shop Rite behind us, our team has mapped out the course for the next round bargaining and we know where we’d like to end up. But after telling you about many of the things I worry about, where do I get the confidence to make that statement…It’s from you, the amazing membership of Local 1500. You have shown me time and time again that when our backs are against a wall, you will come out ready for a fight. This opinion was solidified once again recently when our Shop Rite members filled the rooms at their respective contract update meetings. Literally hundreds and hundreds of our members came out to show Shop Rite just how much you care about your contracts. Even though we had settled with SRS Shop Rite the week before I knew you were planning to come out in droves to your meeting as well, so thank you to everyone.
It sounds a little funny to say but the one thing I worry about most, is the thing that gives me the most strength every day…You!
So, keep sticking together, stay involved in the process and be ready for anything. I am confident that together we can overcome all challenges ahead. I hope you all had a great Summer and I look forward to seeing you at the contract update meetings and in your stores.