On October 27th at our annual Shop Steward Seminar, myself along with the entire Executive Staff and Executive Board were sworn in for three more years as officers of our union. I am honored, humbled and grateful to all of you for providing us with another opportunity to keep working for you.
The entire country, including our Local union, has gone through significant changes last year with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Whether it’s tackling Part-Time hours being cut, raising wages, and securing pension benefits so we may all have a secure retirement, our assembled team is prepared and is fighting each day to make our union even stronger.
This Election Day was very disappointing for the Democratic Party, and this didn’t come as a surprise to many political analysts. What was surprising however was the record for voter turnout in New York. This midterm election was the lowest turnout in a New York gubernatorial election in the modern era. Only 3.7 million people bothered to go to the polls — the fewest since the state Board of Elections began keeping precise tallies in the 1970s. That means only about one-third of the state’s 10.8 million active voters filled out ballots. This is deeply concerning. We all know and hear that voter apathy is at an all time high, but talking about it isn’t solving a thing!
Unrest is seen throughout the entire country, regardless of where American’s live, workers and communities are fighting for more change. Fast-Food workers are striking across the country demanding rights at work (next massive strike is Dec. 4th in NYC), Postal Workers are even protesting service cuts by delaying the mail. We need to be our brother’s keeper; we need to support these workers fighting for rights. Our movement only works and survives if we are in this together.
It’s not just workers calling for change, it’s the wealthy 1% too, and that’s with all the change that has already occurred in our county. In an open letter to America, a Canadian Citizen Richard Brunt writes “…Corporate profits are at record highs (again), the country has been adding 200,000 jobs per month, unemployment is under 6%, the dollar has been at its strongest level in years, stock market is nearing record highs, gas prices continue to fall, interest rates are at the lowest in 30 years and the wealthy are still making tons of money...So, Americans vote for the party that got you into the mess that Obama just dug you out of? This defies reason.”
This was even more painful to read after our election results. It’s a reality check that we all need. Our country has made significant progress and instead of defending it, the GOP drowned us in messages of hate, lack of progress and inaction by our Representatives in Washington, many of them were the cause of the inaction in Washington. This goes back to voter apathy in our country. Why didn’t more Americans get off the couch and go to the polls? Part of the problem is Democrats doing a poor job promoting the progress they’ve made in our country. Democrats had winning issues, just not winning candidates. Minimum wage was raised in four red states on Election Day: Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska. This sends a message to Washington, but is anyone listening? Raising the minimum wage is extremely popular among Americans, with 70 percent of respondents to a recent poll saying they back the idea. That support tends to cross party lines, even if Democrats are more enthusiastic about the idea than Republicans.
There is progress that needs to be made in America, and that’s within labor. We need to defend the rights of part-time workers, we need to raise the minimum wage throughout the entire country and we need to strengthen our labor laws making it easier for employees to band together and form a union. The need for this couldn’t be illustrated more than at Mrs. Green’s in Mount Kisco. Eight longtime workers who had over 60 years combined experience at the store were illegally fired for wanting to join a union for more rights. The result? The company was slapped on the wrist and told to put up a sheet of paper in their store, notifying workers of their basic protected rights. If we hadn’t stood with the eight workers on a picket line, they wouldn’t be back at work today. There is little the National Labor Relations Board can do (and will do) to bring justice against bad employers, for real every day Americans.
Like voter apathy, our union’s greatest enemy is the indifference of those who do not regularly attend meetings and make their voices heard. No one should be so indifferent to his or her own welfare.
I encourage you all to participate in the process and attend your union meetings. If you cannot attend our meetings, please stay in contact with your Union Representative, Shop Steward and stay up to date with us on our social networks and website.
At our Shop Steward Seminar in October we asked all Stewards to fill out a survey on their union. I have read each and every response and we received. If you’d like to participate I encourage you to do so online at this address: www.ufcw1500.org/survey. Feedback is the most important thing to us; it’s what makes us better at representing you.
My warmest wishes to you and your family this holiday season, and a happy new year!