My last article in the Advocate was titled “Bargaining in a New World”, and I wrote it as we were entering bargaining with Stop & Shop in November of 2020. I am happy to report that we were able to negotiate, settle, and ratify our first ever contract under Covid-19 restrictions. It was not easy, but as my last article said, we needed to modify our approach in order to adapt to current conditions.
What made this particular set of negotiations even more tenuous was that Stop & Shop is currently our largest membership, both in number and geographic range. With just over 7,200 members in 70 stores, spanning from Hyde Park to the Hamptons, we faced quite a few challenges to successfully get the job done.
Ultimately, with the help of a rock-solid negotiating committee, we were able to settle on one of the best contracts we have been able to negotiate. And with the help of the committee and your Union Representatives, we were able to vote the new contract in fourteen Stop & Shop locations throughout our jurisdiction. And thanks to thousands of members employed by Stop & Shop that came out to vote for their contract, it was overwhelmingly ratified over a three-day period in December. Congratulations to our Stop & Shop members for sticking together, and successfully seeing their new contract through.
We learned a lot during this process, and for the most part we will be using that experience as a template for all of our multi-store bargaining units this year. The process was different right from the start. Covid-19 has restricted us from having large meetings, which many of you know, is how we have always handled our proposal meetings. How did we get past that obstacle? We emailed all of our Stop & Shop members, that we have email addresses on file for, asking them to send us what they would like to see in their new contract. We even created a dedicated email address for those members to send in their proposals. We received hundreds of responses, and although some of them were the same or similar, we were able to put together a comprehensive set of proposals to eventually send to the Company.
Next, we set up virtual meeting dates with Stop & Shop officials so we could discuss the proposals and move forward. Once the dates were solid, we made sure the committee was scheduled off those days. The committee members were actually able to attend all of the bargaining sessions via Zoom from the comfort of their own home!
We were a touch apprehensive at first, but once we got the process rolling, the logistics became pretty easy. Bargaining on the other hand? Never easy. However, we were able to see it through successfully, and this is exactly what we will be doing with all multi-store bargaining units that expire this year. So, when your time comes, be on the lookout for an email from us requesting what you would like to see change or improve in your next contract. When prompted, send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your name and the company you work for, especially since we may be negotiating multiple contracts at the same time and we want to make sure your voices are properly heard. And by the way, right now would be a very good time to get on our emailing list. Please be sure to update your email address with your Representative today or by emailing us at email@example.com.
Of course, we would love to have in-person meetings with all of you, like always. In fact, we rather miss seeing you in person. However, since the health crisis began, we have been relegated to doing many things virtually, especially our meetings, which most of you know, is a big part of our culture. We will get back there one day soon, but until then, we will continue to perfect our virtual meeting process, so our membership does not miss out on anything.
If we have learned anything from the Covid-19 era, it is that we must work together. This has never been more important than in the past 12 months. Although it is not yet the time for us to be able to carpool to a large meeting, we still need all of you to communicate and work together on attendance to virtual meetings. We still need your presence, and one way or another, your voices still need to be heard.
We urge all company officials to work on projects together with us, whether it be PPE, plexiglass, or your paychecks, we can accomplish much more for you if we are all on the same page, fighting the same fight. We will tell all of your employers the same thing: In a time where they are seeing record-setting profits, they need to come to the table and properly honor the people who have been in the face of the pandemic; the snowstorm; the next holiday rush; the people who keep making those record profits for them when other industries are forced to shut down. You are more than essential to them; you are critical for their success. Now is the time for them to properly recognize YOU.
I look forward to seeing many of you on screen in the very near future!