Is it really September? Is Summer over already? Is it seriously time for our kids to head back to their bus stops and classrooms? The answer to all three of those questions is obviously yes. This year has really flown by so far, but it has not been without its share of industry drama and changes at your Union. We had 2 more retirements this Summer, one from our office and one from the field staff. Tony DeSantis, a member and employee who worked for our Union for more than 40 years, left us at the end of June. Jeff Mausser, a longtime member favorite, not only for his servicing style but also for that great big smile he always wore, retired on July 6th after 20 years of working hard to protect our members in the stores.
A few months ago, we also changed the Union’s internal data and membership system for the first time in over 30 years. Changes of this nature never come without dozens of unforeseen hiccups and operational difficulties. I am proud to report that, after a great deal of hard work, the system transition has been a success. This change will allow our Union to be much more flexible and nimbler than ever before, especially from a data collection and reporting perspective, which in turn increases our ability to provide better service to our members every day.
We are continuing to negotiate open contracts, and although some are taking longer than expected, we are making progress with each bargaining session we complete. Our largest open contract is with Fairway, who’s contract expired in April of this year and is currently on an extension. For those of you that follow the industry and trade publications, I am sure that you have seen that today’s Fairway is a very different company than the Fairway of old. A small company that used to be owned and operated successfully by a few staunch industry professionals has been forced to learn how to survive in today’s NYC retail climate as a larger company, run aground first by a private equity company and now overseen by a bank. To put it mildly the climate in these stores could not feel any different for our 2500 brothers and sisters who work there every day and do their best to provide for their families and serve their customers well. To our Fairway members, I assure you that we are doing everything that we can to help find the best possible solutions to get you through this difficult time and get you a new contract that you can vote on and be proud of!
With all the rumors that are buzzing around the supermarket industry right now it’s become difficult to look in the same direction more than once a day. There are rumors about more than five current operators in our jurisdiction, both Union and non-Union chains, that are having financial issues, looking to sell/close stores and even a few that may opt to file for bankruptcy protection. For decades, a few of the outside contract negotiators we dealt with blamed all of your employer’s business difficulties on the costs of the Union contract and its members. Clearly that is an easier statement for an outsider to make, especially when their only job is to step in and try to gain concessions from your contracts every few years. But those owners that worked side by side with our members each day always knew the real truth, our members have always done their best, worked harder and cared more than the average non-Union worker.
Obviously, it is costlier to run a Union supermarket than a non-Union supermarket, but there is way more to the story than that. Union members typically make more money, which helps them provide a better life for themselves and their families. Paid time off gives Union members the opportunity to stay home when they are sick, deal with the loss of a loved one without an additional loss of income and to get the necessary time away from the job to enjoy their family and recharge their engines. Union members have more access to better healthcare and retirement plans than non-Union workers. All of these items (and dozens more) have a cost, but also create a better overall work environment. A positive work environment changes how many members view their “job”. It goes from just being a “job” and becomes their “career”. Our “career” Union members always go the extra mile, provide great service, watch out for their employer’s business/bottom line and come to work on time and ready to take on whatever new challenge the day confronts them with. This has always been a service business and the customers may shop differently today than they did 10 years ago, but the basics are still the same…have the products in stock, present a clean store, have enough help and provide GREAT customer service. No self-scanners, shopping buddies or store roaming robots can deliver ANY of those basic goals…not without the help of our members.
Local 1500 is currently involved in 3 major organizing projects against some of your employers’ biggest competitors and is gearing up for a full scale, full staff organizing drive again in 2019. Leveling the playing field for your employers is something that we absolutely believe in and must continue to strive towards. Although there may be no perfect solution to stopping the spread of the non-Union operators in our jurisdiction, we will not sit idly by and let your jobs be put in jeopardy. We do our fair share of fighting with your employers daily, trust me, or just ask a few of them yourself, but we still respect the fact that they are all running Union supermarkets. In the decades past our Union was always viewed as a servicing Local first and an organizing Local second. Since President Speelman was elected we have shifted our focus to growing our Union and in turn protecting your Employers. This rededication may create the biggest change in this industry over the next few years. We are not only working on our own projects right now. We are also working on joint campaigns with our sister Local’s 338 & 342, as well as projects with the Region 1 District Council Organizing committee.
During times of difficulty, change and turmoil you can either grab the reigns and take control of a situation or you can let that situation control you. The leadership & staff of our Union, in coordination with our sister Locals and our International have never been the type to be controlled by outside influence. We have never let this ever-changing industry dictate what’s going to happen next and I don’t see that changing now or in the future! Keep your eyes open and watch our emails and social media posts for opportunities to assist us in our organizing drives in the future. Our best organizers have always been our members…the same group that, although often overlooked, has helped make their owners very wealthy and prove every day that they do it better than anyone else in the Industry! #MyUnionHasValue