If your goals in life are like mine, you want to make sure your family is taken care of, long-term, and so the decisions you make should be centered around that premise. Do you want to build your future and have positive, lasting impact on your life, or are you making decisions that just help you get through your day? If you only made decisions for yesterday, then you’re going to have to start over today, and then of course, do it again tomorrow. If that is the case, then where will you be next week, and what is your hope for the future?
Ever wonder why we say organizing is so important? Although we often ask this question, the answer cannot be fully captured in a few paragraphs. Every one of us is an organizer, and it’s time you started thinking of yourself as one. We do not operate in our own individual bubbles, not depending on anyone else for success. Everything you do has an immediate and long-term impact on your future. You may not realize it, but your job depends on your actions and every one of your co-worker’s actions. So why not work together to achieve a common goal?
We often think of bargaining contracts or especially organizing as someone else’s job. But if our jobs and our livelihoods depend on them, how can you leave your future completely in someone else’s hands? Shouldn’t you be active in your Union community to ensure your needs are addressed? Organizing matters to everyone, from the CEO’s of corporations, to the cashiers, even to the customers. When we win elections, we have the ability to improve workers’ lives through collective bargaining agreements, by bringing much desired stability to their jobs, implementing job protections and wage increase schedules they can finally count on. That makes a more dependable job something that is desired, over working for a less-responsible employer.
I’ve often said, however, that organizing is much more than traditional campaigns on non-union worksites. As a member of Local 1500, you are a part of a perpetual organizing campaign, interacting with your coworkers every day. It culminates every few years when you negotiate a new contract, and you depend on the common bond you have with your coworkers to improve your livelihood. But if you couldn’t depend on that bond you’ve built over the months and years, you wouldn’t be able to pull together when times get rough. It’s that solidarity that is so very important, not just at contract time, but all of the time.
We’re all on the team, and your Union staff plays an integral role in your continued success. You can fight for, and achieve the best contracts in the world, but if they aren’t being enforced properly, or you are being serviced poorly, we can eventually lose the benefits in your contracts. So, we all have to stick together or everything we have fought for can be lost.
There is a movement happening, and you are an important part of it. We need to fight for the best contract we can, regardless of the company you work for, because if history has taught us anything, that can change. We need to make sure your contracts remain as strong as possible, because we can never take for granted who you will be negotiating with in the future. We are witnessing Stop & Shop grow to its all-time high presence in our jurisdiction, and in the grand scheme of things, we wish them very long-lasting success. Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Stop & Shop began as just two stores upstate. We’ve lived through the rise of other companies also, and hopefully history will not repeat itself with Stop & Shop, as it did with A&P, Fairway, or King Kullen. Who would have thought that “America’s First Supermarket” was just going to get out of the business? These companies all had much success over the years, starting from much smaller businesses and growing to be very healthy, before heading down the path of demise or acquisition. What happens when the momentum switches? It’s very sad to see companies that we represent disappear, but we unfortunately see this eclipse happen with most companies, and for this reason, we have to maintain the strongest possible contracts we can, because in the future, if someone else ever comes for your company, whatever contract we are able to transition into with the incoming company, needs to have the strongest foundation from the start. We must continue the race to better contracts, not to worse ones, which is what just about every company we deal with would prefer. That war can only be successful if you are fighting hard with us, all the time.
There seems to be a stigma, or a low self-esteem with regard to retail jobs, however everything revolves around retail, and typically if there are no retail options, whether mom & pop stores, or major corporations in a community, that area suffers. And when stores close in most areas, where will people shop afterward? More importantly where will people work afterward? So, shouldn’t retail employees be treated with more dignity? Start thinking of what your worth and value is within your community. Why not try to get on a community board in your area, and become part of the decision-making process there, having a voice in how your neighborhood can change? You need to understand the power you have as a constituent, as an employee, and as a member of your Union. Your involvement is critical for your continued success.
We are all cogs in the wheel, and every decision you make matters. We want to hear what your opinions are because they help shape your environment. The question is not if you should be involved, but how involved do you want to be? Get involved on an organizing campaign – help raise the working standards of other people, and in return your job will benefit from it. Get involved in your contract negotiations this year – because you need to stand up and fight for the best contract possible. Get involved in your community and let them know who you are and stand up for better working standards close to home – We can make a difference together with inviting more responsible employers expanding into our neighborhoods.
Getting involved means you help to create your own path and help other people along the way. How will you ever get to your goals by not caring about your coworkers, or about employees of any company for that matter? It’s all connected and fighting for one means fighting for everyone…and that’s what we are all about.
Lastly, During the Coronavirus episode, the work of retail employees has been put to the test. We have all seen the pictures of empty shelves in the news outlets…then we should all be thinking about the hard-work and dedication that it took to stock and re-stock those shelves. How about the patience needed to deal with customers who may be in panic for the health and the safety of their families? When workers themselves had so many concerns?
I want to take a moment to thank all of the members of the UFCW, and ESPECIALLY the members of Local 1500. Thank you for all of your effort during tough times, and for providing an important service to our communities. We hope that everyone, including your employers realize that YOU are a valuable asset to the companies you work for. I can assure you that there is no robot by any name that could have navigated through this process the way that our great membership did. Thank you again and God bless.