Editorial: Another Model Year

Hopefully you had a safe and enjoyable Summer and are getting ready for colder weather and changing leaves.  It is also time to wish our out of area college student members safe travels back to school and wish them well in their 2023 academic year.  Earlier this Summer we held the Local 1500 Scholarship Awards breakfast and for the first time used it as a fundraiser as well as a celebration for the winners!  I am proud to report that we raised almost $50,000 for the Local 1500 Scholarship Trust this year!  That type of fundraising goes a long way towards meeting our current scholarship responsibilities and provides us with the ability to look for new ways to expand the program.  Thanks again to all our friends, sister Unions, vendor partners and your Employers whose contributions made this year’s event a huge success for our winners and their families.  We couldn’t have done it without you!  I also want to extend a special thank you to former Local 1500 member, and forever Union ally, Anthony Portesy for being this year’s keynote speaker.  Anthony’s message was well received by our winners and once again proved the adage that there is no better way to deliver a message than member-to-member!  Although Anthony is currently withdrawn, his years of membership experience were on full display and his 1500 pride was felt by everyone.  Thanks again Anthony for giving back to your Union and its membership!

I also wanted to take a moment to formally welcome some new members to the Local 1500 family.  This Summer, over 300 members from 4 New York Gourmet Glatt stores and Whitsons Culinary Group (aka Preferred Meals) in Brooklyn, voted to join Local 1500.  For these members the path to 1500 membership was long and at times extremely confusing.  The short version of their story is that these members were dissatisfied with their representation and chose to do something about it.  After many legal steps these members chose to join the UFCW to help gain a voice on the job, negotiate stronger contracts, and to increase the prospect of providing a better life for their families.  After elections and legal processes that took over 2 years, these amazing members voted overwhelmingly to join Local 1500!  We are encouraged by their collective strength and energized by their unwavering drive.  They fought to get the results they wanted and a Union membership card they are proud to carry.  We are hopeful that over the next few months they will be joined by more groups of workers from the kosher markets in our area that are currently walking that same path those members did.  It was a little unusual for Local 1500 to be involved in a membership project like this one, but we jumped at the opportunity to help these folks achieve their goal.  There are many paths to Local 1500 membership, but these members proved a willingness to metaphorically walk through fire to get here, and for that we couldn’t be prouder to welcome them!

I also wanted to take a moment to highlight the incredible work being done on our inaugural contract for our members at Blank Street Coffee.  It is typically more difficult to negotiate a first contract and this campaign has been no different.  Although our negotiating team has met with the Employer and their attorney’s multiple times the process has been slower than we and our members would like.  Please keep an eye on our social media and be on the lookout for blast texts and update emails in case we need you to engage.  Our members at Blank Street are blazing a path forward not only for themselves, but also for the workers at so many other coffee chains in our area.  Our organizing victory at Blank Street, has our team currently working with groups of workers from so many other coffee chains.  These other campaigns are all at different stages in the process, but one thing is clear, a successful first contract for Blank Street workers will send a message to baristas and coffee shop workers everywhere that victory in this industry can be achieved if you stay united and have enough support.  So be ready to support this campaign.  These members may need you in the coming months, and in the future, you may need them too!

Thank you for allowing me to be the President of our amazing Union and for giving me the honor of representing you.  I believe our current team is as good as any we have had over the past 30 years, and maybe in our history.  They are working hard for you every day, enforcing the contracts, servicing our members, and making sure your workplaces are as safe as they can be.  As always, we will continue to look for ways to increase the value you receive for your membership dollars and keep negotiating the best contracts in the industry!  See you all soon!  Work safe and remember #OurUnionHasValue!