Editorial: 2020 Is Full Of Surprises

Would 2020 be complete without a few more industry curve balls, and even a welcome surprise? This year has once again proven that, in our industry and our country, anything is possible, both good and bad.
After more than 18 months and probably more than 100,000 labor hours invested (I’d guess), the long-awaited merger between Stop & Shop and King Kullen/Wild by Nature has officially been called off. On June 10th it was announced that both companies decided that it was in their best interests to change course and stop the pursuit of one of the biggest events the Long Island grocery business would’ve seen in a decade. From the beginning, for some reason, there were rumblings that this deal may not happen, and I personally said those words too many times during the first few months. But like virtually everyone else, after the amount of time and effort put in, I thought the deal would eventually materialize. For all you poker players out there, it appeared that they were all pot committed. “Significant, unforeseen changes in the marketplace” mainly triggered by the Covid-19 outbreak was cited as the main reason the deal ended. Whether there were other reasons behind the scenes or not is irrelevant now, so it’s back to business for King Kullen, WBN and all the folks at America’s first supermarket! Even though you never officially left…Welcome back!

For the first time this year, a welcome surprise came knocking on our door when two additional Fairway stores, slated to close, found themselves with a new buyer. Bogopa Food Bazaar has entered into an agreement to buy both the Red Hook and Douglaston stores! After a very strange virtual auction process left all but 6 of our Fairway stores without a buyer this news came as a major shot in the arm for the more than 250 Local 1500 members working in these two stores. There is still a possibility as I write this article that a buyer could be found for the Westbury store in the coming weeks as well. Sadly, we all watched as both the Plainview and Harlem stores closed in mid-July. As these were two of the three longest operating Fairway stores it is just a complete shame that we couldn‘t find buyers to step up to the plate before they closed. We will continue to work with our Union operators to try and find interest in these sites in the coming months.

As if we didn’t have enough drama Stop & Shop decided that the time had come to end your “appreciation pay” on July 4th. Seriously? The largest employer in the region, the one that has the most members at risk on a daily basis, the one that made an absolute fortune during the once in a lifetime sales numbers, just pulls the plug on you and says enough is enough. From the beginning we called it “hazard pay” and some of your employers did as well. There is still danger (hazard) in the stores every day, no matter what stage of re-opening our state is at. This garbage decision was based around profits and not people and Stop & Shop should be ashamed. Many smaller employers, with less assets at their disposal, did a much better job protecting their members and rewarding them longer for their hard work. We try and work with all your employers whenever we can, but in this case to basically just be told no more was both agitating and unacceptable. We filed charges at the NLRB on your behalf and will keep you up to date on that process.

As your representatives we come to work every day with the goal of making sure that you are well protected. We are always looking for new ways to keep you safer on the job, protect your benefit packages and to provide you the best representation in the industry. We work very closely with our sister Local’s 338 and 342 to make sure that we are on the same page and to increase our bargaining strength. As we get ready to enter a long and large contract cycle please remember that we are ALWAYS going to be stronger when we work together and stay informed. Our country may be divided for many reasons right now, but there is no time and you will not benefit from division on the job or in our Union. Stay safe, stay informed, stay united, work together and better days will surely follow. Thank you for all that you do everyday and thank you for allowing me to be your President.