Over the years, I have always believed that our Union does whatever it takes to protect our membership during ever-changing times. This year I have learned just how realistic that belief is. As times recently changed for the worse in our country, Local 1500 went from protecting workers’ rights---to protecting workers.
When the coronavirus descended upon New York earlier this year, causing the Governor to shut the State down, our Union jumped into action to secure as much personal protective equipment as we could get our hands on. From thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to masks and gaiters, to protective safety vests, we did everything that we could to keep the heroes that we represent as safe as possible.
Through all of this, the supermarket employee has become a symbol of fortitude, being there for a community that otherwise cannot function without them. It seems reassuring that as the world changes around us, the supermarket worker remains a constant. And although we all have to adapt to these challenging times, it is you that remind us of how things used to be, and it is you that is evidently always there for us as we transition to a new norm.
Everything we do has become different, and in adapting to the changing environment, we have been pursuing multiple ways to protect our membership, whether it be their health or their jobs. During the Spring and Summer of this year, the coronavirus compelled hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to vacate the City, leaving many of the supermarket operators that we represent with dangerously low business. To add insult to injury, our supermarkets have had to contend with fruit cart vendors that park their operation right outside of their front doors. This is unacceptable, has been going on for far too long, and is growing increasingly problematic. It is bad enough for these street vendors to constantly poach customers from responsible, long-term employers who have high overhead costs and many employees, but in the coronavirus age, they are an even more serious threat to these businesses, and thus to our members’ jobs. We have been extremely vocal about this problem to anyone in the City of New York who is looking for an endorsement of some kind. We are letting them know that if they are serious about representing the areas where our members work, then they need to take this issue seriously, as thousands of good jobs are in danger if things remain the same. We will continue this fight until real progress is made in protecting our employers’ operations, and thus our members’ jobs. Of course, we will report back to you as we move along in this fight. And if there is a street vendor that is parked outside your place of business and potentially affecting your job, please let us know. Although at times the Union and your company may be at odds over certain things, just as with the fruit vendors, there are issues that both parties work as a team to conquer. When there is a common concern for Local 1500 members’ well-being, we will always work alongside your company for your benefit.
That coalition building doesn’t stop at the stores. Over the past year we have been working to improve operations at our headquarters as well. We continue to build the best field and office team in the Labor Movement, and our office staff has especially flourished recently. Under our Office Manager Michele Wright’s leadership, we were able to reconstruct our Pension Department from scratch and have enabled multiple staff members to learn the process of properly calculating a pension. We have actually emerged in a better position to help our members with their retirement needs than ever before, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank not only our Pension Department, but our entire office staff for stepping up this year.
A big question is what will 2021 bring? Widespread effective vaccines for all, hopefully. Not needing to socially distance or wear masks, hopefully. A return to normalcy at work for our members, hopefully. Whatever the new year has for us, we must and will maintain protecting the rights, jobs, and health of our members. Without you, your community would be crippled, that is a fact. Former President Speelman would always say “You have our backs, and we will have yours!” This could not ring any truer as it has this past year. We could not let you fight this pandemic on your own, facing it every day at your workplaces, and just as you have stood strong in the face of adversity, we will always stand strong for you. That is our pledge to you.
I would like to say a few words to our former president who is about to start the next stage of his life. Tony, you have taught me so much and you can never be replaced. Thank you for your leadership and your friendship over the years. This place will never be the same without you so make sure you visit often! Enjoy your retirement and I hope you have fun spoiling your grandkids! Congratulations Tony. We love you!
And on that last note, As the close of 2020 draws near, I want to thank the great membership of Local 1500. Thank you for everything that you do to contribute to society, to our communities and the economy of our country, not only during these unprecedented times while we endure a pandemic, but every day of our lives. You are essential, have always been essential and will continue to be essential. I wish you and your families happiness, health, and a safe 2021
Aly Y. Waddy - Secretary Treasurer
The Advocate, Winter 2021