Editorial: Bargaining In A New World

Remember the days of large group settings? Attending a baseball game or a concert? Maybe having dinner in a crowded restaurant or dancing at a loved one’s wedding? The world can change so quickly on us.

Remember attending Union meetings and sitting shoulder to shoulder with people you may or may not know, seeking the latest information on what was going on?  I sure do.

Maybe you attended the legendary meeting at Antun’s Catering Hall in 1998, where we had to hold a second meeting immediately following the first one because the crowd was too large and people lining the sidewalk couldn’t see or hear? The buses packed with members kept on showing up to our Union Hall down the block and we surpassed capacity at the catering hall so much so that they told us never to come back. Anyone remember that? Or the contract update meetings at St. John’s University (because we obviously had to upgrade seating capacity after that), or the Marriott in Yonkers? How about Pathmark members descending on Terrace on the Park to hear the update on their contract negotiations? Were you there? Maybe you were at one of the countless meetings held at the Sheraton on Motor Parkway in Hauppauge? Thankfully, we could open the walls there for more room…literally. They kept changing the name of their hotel to get away from us, but we kept finding them and finding them again. Or maybe you were at the Mannix ShopRite Strike Authorization Meeting in 2017 in Staten Island, where hundreds and hundreds of members (from just three stores) stuffed themselves into the room and stood up for a better contract. Were you there?

When I look back at the solidarity Local 1500 members have shown over the decades, it warms my heart and especially renews my determination each year to deliver the best contract to you that we possibly can. But how are we supposed to show up and stand strong…if we cannot even show up?

Covid-19 has changed the way we all do things, from saying hello to friends, to food shopping, to contract bargaining, we have all had to modify our behavior this year. We all face a bit of a challenge illustrating our unity – when we must distance ourselves from each other. We have to stand together as a Union at all times, and especially during negotiations, and despite the coronavirus…we must find a way to signify to your employers, and to your coworkers, that we stand strong and that we stand together.

As we conduct bargaining sessions via outlets like Zoom, it is increasingly evident that electronic communication has become more important than ever before. Our Social Media platforms will need to become more active and more informative during this process.

Who would have thought you could attend a Union meeting from anywhere you wanted? …In your footie pajamas; or while tending to your kids; or even while driving? We especially do not recommend that last one. Or if you’re in Bridgehampton or Cutchogue or Rhinebeck…that you wouldn’t have to drive ANYWHERE to attend our meetings? Frigid temps? Not a problem. Snowstorm? Not a problem. Too far away? Not a problem. Most reasons for not attending meetings have virtually been eliminated. I know you saw that one coming. But we seriously must take advantage of the convenience of these new formats, and attendance at our meetings should now dramatically increase.

Right now is the time to get more involved. And the stronger we stick together from the start, the less of a chance we will have to be divided in the future.

Times change, and often not for the better. But we have to understand and adapt to the changes if we are to overcome any new obstacles that come about. We’ve said many times that technology may not be our friend—clearly not when its implementation results in the loss of jobs. However, we have to embrace technology that enables us to still come together as a group and continue to communicate effectively.

We cannot yet know just how long Covid-19 will be with us, but what we do know is that this virus cannot prevent us from negotiating our contracts that will cover the next few years of our lives. Four or five years from now, whether or not we have conquered Covid-19, we need to be able to look back and appreciate that we worked through this crisis to continue to provide the protections and benefits you currently enjoy in your contract. That must continue, no matter what.

So, what can you do to participate in the process? Attend your upcoming meetings. And how do you do that? Start by making sure we have an accurate email address for you. Then download the Zoom application on your devices. Then a couple of days prior to your particular meeting, we will email you an invite with a link to click on to get into the meeting. Boom, you’re in. See you there.

We also hold quarterly General Membership meetings via Facebook Live. All you need to do is get onto our Facebook page at the time of the meeting and you will be able to join in. These meetings are very informative, very important, and everyone should attend.

We are constantly seeking better ways to reach the membership of Local 1500. If a different format of communication arises in the future and is a benefit for you or even more user friendly, we will adopt it also. We are open to whatever will allow us to do the best job we possibly can to represent you.

So please be assured that we are tirelessly fighting on your behalf, whether it be face to face like we did back in the old days, or virtually in the new world.  There is no barrier big enough to prevent us from getting you what you deserve!

Joseph D. Waddy – Executive Vice President/Recorder