There has been so much confusion and division amongst us lately. Most of us are hurting when we watch news about the latest demonstration or see updated numbers across the country of people who have gotten sick or passed away. We are living through some of the most troubling times we have seen, and we cannot help but notice how the world is changing. Unfortunately, some of the companies we represent may not see things quite the same way.
Although Stop & Shop is a Union company, do not be misled, they don’t always act like one. Our membership should never forget that in their time of need their company could’ve and should’ve done better for them. We will not forget or let Stop & Shop off the hook for stopping Hazard Pay how and when they did. They are more than likely pretty happy that some of your focus has started to shift from that terrible decision and onto the multitude of other issues that are prevalent around the world right now. As with most major problems, they have tried to ride it out until the next big headline comes out, then it is on to the next distraction.
Every morning I am greeted by text messages from my mom, where she says to me, “God bless you”, “I love you” and “have a good day” amongst other pleasant things. It is a very sweet routine and I hope it lasts forever. Unfortunately, another part of my daily routine is worrying about everything my family and our members face that day, week, and month. I am sure you also wake up every day and worry about working in hazardous conditions (without Hazard Pay); overcrowding in the stores; the possibility of bringing coronavirus home to your families; your friend or family member that may be losing that extra $600 of unemployment benefits; will you or someone you love continue to receive rent assistance; will we have another stimulus boost?
If you are worried about these things, then we are on the same page. However, your company officials do not wake up worrying about the same things that you do. That is why decisions they make are typically not in your favor. We need to make changes to our system where the people who are in control fully understand and can relate to the people that they employ. Only then will the decisions they make be better and more enjoyable for you and your family. Let us not forget that many of the “powers that be” worked in the stores at some point. Forget where you came from much? Did your previous life & work experience magically get erased from your mind?
Elected officials, community leaders, and company officials are quick to call you essential, however we want them to ACT like you are essential, and we want them to make you FEEL that you are essential. It seems that during this pandemic the word “essential” has secretly become synonymous with “disposable”! None of us can afford to stand by and allow that to become truth. We are challenging everyone we deal with to actually step up for you and really speak up on your behalf. We have been engaging elected officials across our jurisdiction to pressure your company to ensure you have the right protections in place and all the PPE that you need. You kept working, right in the face of the pandemic when millions of others got to stay home and be safe with their families. Hundreds of Local 1500 members got sick and sadly too many died. You kept your communities fed, and of course, not only kept your company in business, but you enabled them to enjoy the largest profits they’ve seen in a lifetime. It appears that after all, that they forgot about you. NOT ON OUR WATCH! We will keep fighting together, to bring you and your job the status and dignity it deserves.
Overall, we need to be more aware of our surroundings at work. If history has taught us anything it is that we cannot give anything away or allow anything to be taken from us. Are they suddenly enforcing one of their “policies”? Ask yourselves why. Is your company changing your uniform? Ask yourselves why. Are they introducing new technology that automates a lot of what you’ve historically done? Ask yourselves why. Have they stopped focusing on sanitation? Again, why?
You need to challenge what is going on and never allow it to silently just happen. Think about 2019 vs. 2020....normal life has changed; we all wear masks and socially distance each day. The ‘new norm’ is often established by our everyday behavior, and if we allow companies to chip away at us each day, a new normal will be created there as well. The routine should not be that there is nothing going on. We should always be striving to make positive change, and the only way to do that is to be persistent. We should be the most vocal leading into contract bargaining and you need to constantly remind your employer how valuable you are to them. If you are inactive, at the bargaining table your company will say you seem content (in spite of everything that has happened) and will refuse to give you anything more.
Over the past few months, the trend has been that the Union bargains with the company and we are successful in attaining things for the membership, whether it be Hazard Pay, plexiglass installations, or PPE to name a few. While your employers are constantly seeking what modifications will benefit them, your Union is always looking to keep the best working conditions possible. The vehicle of enforcement of late has become the Union, even for non-Union companies, for topics such as minimum wage, OSHA standards, cleanliness, and social distancing in the stores among other concerns.
2020 has made us stronger than ever and has grown our unity to beyond working with just our own communities. We have been working closely with the leadership and members of Locals 338 and 342 and encourage all of you to do the same. Together we are all stronger and can reach all of our common goals faster.
Always remember that most Union companies are not Union companies because they want to be. It’s because they have to be. Let us not allow anything to distract us as we keep working together to create a new norm that favors you! And never forget that they hate it when we act like a union!!
Aly Y. Waddy - Secretary Treasurer
The Register August 2020