Editorial: Adapting To Change Everyday

Over the past 12 months we have successfully negotiated new contracts for more than 15,000 Local 1500 members.  As I am writing this article the current contract cycle is still FAR from over.  Over the next 12 months, 18 contracts covering more than 4,500 Local 1500 members, still need to be renegotiated.  Many of the issues we have dealt with this year at the bargaining table have been very difficult to overcome.  New York’s minimum wage increases have had and will continue to have a very significant impact on your employer’s profitability.  However, these increases mean significantly more money in the weekly paychecks of our members, especially the part timers.  These increases have caused all of your employers to focus more on reducing costs and cutting expenses in any way that they can.  Today the rising costs of healthcare and pension plans, just to maintain your current level of benefits, cannot be denied by anyone these days.

There is no question that the crunch on hours scheduled each week is being felt by each and every one of you, regardless of your status or length of service.  The employers have been fighting harder and harder to reduce any/all hourly premiums and have become especially focused on eliminating 1 ½ X for Sunday and Holiday work.  I wish I could tell you that all of your employers can easily just absorb the additional costs without an issue, but that would be a lie.  As many of you know, a few of the companies we represent are much less financially secure than some others.  This creates a very delicate situation while we negotiate new contracts.  The goal of Local 1500’s negotiating team has always been to maximize the level of benefits and the dollars earned per hour for all of our members each time we are at the bargaining table.  However, if we negotiate a settlement that is too rich for your employer and they close stores or go out of business what have we really accomplished?

Protecting the long-term job security of our members must include making sure that every settlement we secure is affordable to your specific employer.  In today’s environment we must all try to do everything we can to support our Union employers and keep them competitive in spite of changing legislation or the influx of non-union competition throughout our jurisdiction.  We must also recognize that the vision for the new contracts can no longer be looked at as “one size fits all”.  If the fall of A&P (Pathmark for us) has taught us anything, it has taught us that when a company fails and/or goes out of business, the impact on the members that work there is beyond catastrophic.  More than 2,000 members and their families that worked for Pathmark were negatively impacted when it was liquidated and auctioned off in pieces.  Many members were forced to relocate, take reduced early pensions and/or to accept new low wage/no benefit jobs to try and make ends meet.  That is a situation that none of us ever want to see again in our industry.

Although we cannot tell your employers how to run their stores or who to hire, we also cannot ignore the significant cost of your contracts, especially when compared to what a non-union operator pays.  We are trying to find ways to help keep some of the less financially secure employers in business longer in an effort to keep you all working.  So far, all of the recent settlements have been overwhelmingly approved which tells me that you are all on the same page and that you understand what it is that we are trying to accomplish.  Getting everyone to dedicate themselves to organizing the non-union competition is a primary goal for Local 1500 in 2018 and beyond.

Let’s face it, change is not normally welcomed, especially when it’s not seen as a positive one.  However, whether we are talking about the health insurance, pension plans, your contracts or the supermarket industry in general, one thing is for sure…changes are coming.  If we get out in front of them and plan properly, as opposed to waiting until the last minute, the changes can be minimized, communication will be better, and we will be able to better protect all of you and your families for decades to come.  Unfortunately, the days of just continuing to do things as they have been done in the past are behind us.  As a Union we are constantly trying to find new ways to provide increased value to you for your membership fees.  We hope that you have seen this and are taking advantage of the many non-contractual benefits we also provide.  Please go to “ufcw1500.org/your-union-benefits/other-union-benefits” if you haven’t already and take advantage of any/all that apply to you and your family.

As we continue through this bargaining cycle and move into the future the only way to truly be successful is by planning better and listening more.  President Speelman and the rest of the team here at Local 1500 remain dedicated to hearing your thoughts and value what you have to say.  We do no take the words or opinions of any member lightly and never, EVER, take our positions or responsibilities for granted.  The more involved the membership is in the bargaining process and in organizing the more representative of your true needs and feelings the final settlements will be.  The years ahead will certainly be a challenge for all of us, but they don’t have to be a negative experience.  On behalf of the leadership team, the field and office staffs here at Local 1500, I want to thank you all for your continued support and the faith you have in us to lead this great Union and its members into the future.  Please remember that in unity there is strength and for the record, in my 27 years as a member of our Union, I have never felt weak! #MyUnionHasValue