Sometimes when I sit down to write this article I go back and read previous articles to make sure that I don’t sound like a broken record. I also like to see if the things I said were going to happen came to fruition. Unfortunately, the last 2 December articles I wrote were about the Pension Fund and all the changes that happened in 2019 & 2020. Although the items I covered all did happen, that isn’t exactly my topic of choice for an end of year/Holiday paper.
By the time this paper is delivered to you we will have had our first in person General Membership Meeting since March of 2020, hopefully it went well. Our 2 Retiree clubs will have already had their respective Holiday dinners. Our Shop Stewards will have hopefully received their Holiday Cards from their Reps. And most, if not all, of our college student members will have returned to the shops just in time to help you contend with the Holiday rush. But sadly, many of us will also be pondering who and where they came up with name for the newest Covid variant. For the record the answer is, the names come from the World Health Organization, and they name the variants after Greek letters “to avoid public confusion and stigma”.
No matter how much we do, it seems that Covid-19 (now the Omicron variant) is still hanging around. It’s starting to feel like this might just become a part of the new normal in our lives. If that’s true, it means that for now a few things aren’t that likely to change for the better. The help situations in your stores won’t be back to a pre-pandemic level any time soon. It means that the crazy customers will still act and shop like the end of days is coming. It means that masks and sanitizer will still a part of our everyday lives to stay safer. It means there will be continued supply chain issues in every department of your shops. And yes, it means that you will still be working your tails off and trying to find ways to take good care of your customers.
Despite all those difficult facts I am confident that you will all accomplish great things in 2022. When I think about all the amazing things you and your Union accomplished together this year how could I be anything less than confident. In 2021 your membership bargaining teams successfully negotiated and helped ratify 19 Union contracts, covering almost 7,000 Local 1500 members! All those settlements came with continued or increased yearly contributions to your Union Scholarship Fund, which broadens the scope of the scholarships we can award our members and their dependents in the future. This year for the first time in the Fund’s history, in addition to our normal scholarship awards, we were able to give scholarships to part-time students and trade school applicants.
You helped raise just under $90,000 for the Local 1500 Charity Fund. Because of your efforts the Local 1500 Charity Fund donated to a multitude of charities this year including the American Cancer Society, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children, Autism Speaks, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, and many, many, more. This year, in addition to selling scan-off cards at the registers, you also helped raise money by participating in a Suffolk County fishing trip, a Nassau County comedy show, and the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk held at Jones Beach. You also bought THOUSANDS of raffle tickets for multiple drawings that included a generator, NYS lottery scratch-off ticket books and a pair of Rangers/Islander tickets. Considering the difficult challenges that Covid creates for fundraising events, I’d say that all our members and our Union field staff all deserve a HUGE round of applause for a job well done!
You also helped your Union bring dignity, respect, and a voice on the job to our newest members working at Foragers Market. These two election victories at a supermarket company were just what the doctor ordered in 2021! Remember that in addition to giving those workers an opportunity to bargain over their working conditions, every industry organizing victory levels the playing field a little more for your employers. Keeping your employers as competitive as possible always increases our chances to secure better wages and benefit packages for our members for years to come.
For those of you that have been asking, we can’t wait to get back to our two yearly Blood Drives down at Frank Meehan Hall in 2022. You can get in touch with Paul Santarpia or just watch our socials for posts that include more info and upcoming dates. I also hope that 2022 will see the return of the Dutchess County bowl-a-thon, the Yankee and Met games, as well as a few other regular events like our yearly Union night with the Brooklyn Cyclones and our annual Breakfast with Santa.
No matter the day, Local 1500 members always manage to show that they are ready for anything, and up for the challenge regardless of what life, supervision, customers, or our industry throws at them. I have never been prouder to be a member of this Union than I have for the last two years. To see firsthand what our members had to endure and yet still be successful on the shop floor without an ounce of hesitation was inspirational. The accolades you were finally given by your communities and the elected officials paled in comparison to the heart and dedication you showed as you fought to get your jobs done in the face of the most unprecedented set of circumstances to ever hit our industry. The pride I feel as your President is indescribable. I have the privilege to represent the best group of members in the Labor movement. For that, and for all that you do, I thank you. I want to take this opportunity to wish all Local 1500 members and their families a happy and healthy Holiday season and the best for the New Year. I hope that you all get to enjoy some quality time with your loved ones and have the chance to end this year on a better note than it started.
Sadly, I need to end this article on a somber note. On November 19th, 2021, former Local 1500 Secretary-Treasurer Lenny Salvo passed away in Florida. I am sure that many of you reading this article remember Lenny fondly from his decades of service to the Local 1500 membership. Throughout his career at Local 1500 Lenny did every job at the Union from staff Organizer to Secretary-Treasurer. If you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Lenny, I can tell you that he should be remembered as someone who could argue any point, and someone who would argue it to any length necessary to get his point across or win on behalf of his members. Lenny never had an issue playing the heal when necessary or being the sole no vote in a room full of yeses. Lenny lived life to the fullest and loved his members and our Union. Prior to joining the Union staff in 1971, Lenny worked as a rank-and-file member at Pick Quick KeyFood. Lenny officially retired from Local 1500 in mid-2010 after 39 years of service, and relocated to Florida with his wife Lisa, where he stayed until his passing last month. Thank you for your years of service Lenny, may you rest in peace.