Editorial: Better Service Is Always The Priority

In my article last September, I mentioned that we had transitioned to a new membership data system in the office. That new system is called “LUMM” and thankfully it was provided to us by the UFCW International Union. That benefits us in dozens of ways from a communication perspective but perhaps the largest benefit was that there was no additional cost to the Union. The cost of the system, the installation and the training staff that taught our crew how to use it were covered by the part of your membership fees that we send to the International Union each month. For a percentage of your membership fees the UFCW International Union provides all its Local Union’s with an unbelievable amount of support and assistance. That support is always based around helping a Local Union provide the best communication and service it can to its current and prospective members. In this case transitioning over to the LUMM system saved our Local more time and money than you can imagine. Additionally, it is lightyears more user friendly and much more stable for our staff to use than the prior system. It has also cut our administrative time at the office by approximately 10%-15%.

Our move over to the LUMM system also gave us access to a new mobile software program called “Sidekick”. Sidekick gives our Reps live mobile access to the LUMM program back in the office and has an editable digital version of our Union application built into it. This means that your Rep can sign you up on the spot and they have the most up to date information about you, as opposed to something that was printed at the beginning of the month. Thousands of our members have already come face to face with Sidekick at their stores in 2019. How do I know that? Because earlier this year we changed our Union application and we decided to re-sign the entire membership with it. That process is going very well so far and in August alone our Reps re-signed almost 3,000 members and well over 1,000 of them were done digitally! Having Sidekick gave us the ability to accomplish this without losing the face to face time on the shop floors. It provided our Reps the opportunity to meet with thousands of their members, speak with them about their Union and talk to them as they reviewed it, filled it out and signed it, all on the Rep’s tablet. As of August 31st, we are over 60% re-signed and well on our way to 100%.

As I mentioned above, Sidekick gives our Rep’s access to up to date membership information right in the palm of their hands. This gives them the ability (if necessary) to update your address, email address, cell phone number, as well as see a great deal of your work history. We recently asked the LUMM/Sidekick support staff to get our Welfare Fund beneficiary cards made digitally available to us in Sidekick and they turned that around for us very quickly. Now we can help you update your beneficiary and verify your dependents and their information right there on the spot. We can also help you make sure that all your documentation is up to date and you aren’t missing any forms, like your welfare opt in/out form or your marriage certificate. But I’m excited to tell you that we have barely scratched the surface of the servicing benefits Sidekick will provide. Soon enough even more information will be available for you on your Rep’s mobile device. Hopefully many more processes, currently done with pen and paper, will be shifted to digital and made available to you right there in an instant!

In the future Sidekick will also give our Reps the ability to communicate with a group of members, a specific store, or even a whole Company via text with important messages at the same time. However, this is not the same as traditional group texting where your phone “blows up” because you receive messages from everyone in the group. These messages will be sent to a large group at one time but come through as a single message to you and you will not get the messages from any other people in the group. This will make the whole process much more convenient and much less annoying. Obviously, you would need to have provided an up to date cell phone number on your Union application for us to include you in this. Think about the benefit of receiving real time updates on contract negotiations, upcoming meetings and events, benefit changes/upgrades or even something as simple as knowing which day your Rep will be coming to your shop. Between Google searches and Social Media information moves as fast as a person can type and we want to make your membership with us just as convenient and easy!

Currently we are also working on loading digital versions of your contracts, benefit books and some additional forms you may need onto the Reps tablets as well. This will give them the ability to email/text you most of what you may need in the blink of an eye. We need to upgrade the devices that our Reps use in the field to make this and a few other updates happen, but I assure you the goal is to have it all done before the holidays. Our ability to provide you the greatest value possible for your membership is very important to us.

Over the last three years we have changed a lot here at Local 1500. We have cut expenses, reduced contributions, renegotiated vendor contracts and realigned our field staff and our assets, all to maximize the service that we provide. We also not only won our first food organizing campaign in many years at the Hale & Hearty commissary, but we also just successfully negotiated our second contract there! Once again, we were successful at bettering the working conditions, paid time off and benefits for those members! We all truly believe in the expression “My Union Has Value” and do everything we can to represent it!

In closing I just wanted to remind you that we are still looking to take a few Local 1500 members out of their stores on a leave of absence for 3-6 months to help us on specific organizing campaigns. Although we now have 5 full-time organizers on staff, we are always looking for members to help us out. History has shown that there is nobody better to talk about the benefits of belonging to our Union than our members! So if you are interested in joining us in this effort please email us @ jobs@ufcw1500.org and put “Membership Organizing Assistance” in the subject line. Happy Fall everyone and I hope to see you all soon!