By: Tony Speelman
For two weeks in May, members from Stop and Shop and King Kullen Grocery stores attended contract proposal meetings throughout our region. As you know by now, the contracts for these companies expire at the end of September. Contracts for several other companies will expire in October and proposal meetings for those companies will be held in the near future.
Due to the tremendous changes to our healthcare fund required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these Stop and Shop and King Kullen contract proposal meetings were very different from past meetings. There was a lot of discussion about the increase cost to our Health and Welfare fund due to ACA. There was also discussion about pensions cost and changes we were forced to make under the Pension Protection Act. Of course, we also discussed raises, working conditions and quality of life issues but much of the meeting time was dedicated to understanding the financial impact of the ACA.
When you combine all of these issues with other arguments we can expect to hear from your employers, such as the economy and non- union competition, it is clear that we are facing the most challenging negotiations this Union has ever conducted.
At one point in the Stop and shop meeting, a member stood up and asked a very important question: “With all of these problems we are facing, what’s our leverage against the company? How are we going to get a good contract?”
The answer to that question is no different today than it has been for every contract this Union has negotiated: You. You are the leverage.
The one thing that your employers will never be able overcome is the solidarity of the membership. It may seem like a cliché but today the words “The union united will never be defeated,” have never been more important.
If you look around the Country, and in even in your own backyard, you will see that solidarity movements are springing up everywhere. From fast food workers in New York City to Walmart workers nationwide, employees are walking off the job united for a better life. Each group of workers united and seeking an end to jobs that pay minimum wage and no benefits. Most importantly, they seek what you already have: a Union!
While their fight is just beginning, yours has been going on for years. Each contract negotiations, you have stood with your Union as we struggle to reach a fair settlement. You have joined in solidarity with your co-workers, part timers and full timers, sending a message to your employers that you are prepared to fight any attempt to divide you or weaken your resolve. You have never backed down.
Your solidarity over the years has paid off. You have some of the best contracts in the supermarket industry. You have excellent health insurance and strong pensions as well as wages and other benefits that are superior to so many workers in retail. You have fought for and earned your Union contract.
So, as in the past, It is that solidarity that will continue to be key leverage we will have over the employers this and every contract. Of course, we will be prepared with our media campaign and will seek the support of the public if necessary but it is you, the members that will deliver a fair settlement.
A united Union is the all the leverage we will need to be victorious!