Editorial: Turning The Corner

After what seemed like the most difficult decade in our Union’s history, this year we have started to see signs of a shift towards positivity.  The membership of this Union has overcome a financial crisis reminiscent of the Great Depression, been forced to negotiate around multiple pieces of anti-worker legislation, worked through rampant corporate mismanagement, and had their lives altered forever during multiple bankruptcies and an eventual controlled liquidation.   However, if you look at 2016 we’ve seen the installation of our new Union President, the long awaited opening of some new stores and most importantly the positive impact of some of your displaced brothers & sisters getting back to work.  We have also added some new staff this year and started revamping some of our communication practices in an effort to more successfully reach our younger members, especially the new hires.  Throughout 2016 we have been actively working alongside the UFCW political department as they successfully lobbied and helped pass multiple pieces of pro worker legislation in NYC & the State of New York.

This year we happily welcomed Bogopa, Food Bazaar to our jurisdiction (page 5).  On June 20th they opened a new store in the former Pathmark in Brentwood.  The team at Food Bazaar definitely had their work cut out for them as they fought to transition that store (which was in a complete disrepair) into a beautiful, full service market for the entire Brentwood community to enjoy.  I can assure you that Food Bazaar will certainly take a chunk out of the registers of the non-union ethnic stores in the area.  We look forward to welcoming our 2nd Food Bazaar location into the former Pathmark store located in Starrett City, Brooklyn in about 6 months.

After what must have felt like 20 years the highly anticipated 3rd Mannix Shop Rite store finally opened in Charleston, Staten Island on June 30th.  This location is very different than his others and they have put a significant number of our displaced members back to work.  The Mannix company pulled out all the stops in this site and from what we hear the community loves them for it.  We hear rumors that there may be more Mannix locations coming in the future and we hope that’s true.

Over 170 of our members who worked for Stop & Shop in Dutchess County, NY breathed a big sigh of relief this Summer when they found out that their stores were being purchased by Tops Supermarkets.  Two of our Stop & Shop stores, Wappingers Falls and Rhinebeck, were ordered to be divested by the FTC following the proposed merger of the Royal Ahold (Stop & Shop’s parent Company) and Delhaize companies.  For months the members in these two stores were filled with uncertainty and concern about who the new owner would be, what would happen to them and their contract.  When the news broke that the buyer would be Tops, a good UNION supermarket operator, the members were thrilled.  When they found out that 100% of their jobs, their seniority and their Union Contract would be intact they were even happier.  This is an enormous victory for every member of Local 1500 as we welcome another new owner to our jurisdiction and prevent the erosion of your market share upstate. Check out the photos on page 5.

In a five month span this year we have seen the passing of four very significant pieces of pro-worker legislation.  In February we saw the passing of the NYC “Grocery Workers Retention Act” which protects the jobs of supermarket workers for at least 90 days if a supermarket is sold from one owner to another.  To say that this will help us in future organizing campaigns is an understatement.  In March the State Assembly finally passed the “Paid Family Leave Act”.  This act will eventually ensure up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, cover two-thirds of the worker’s salary and guarantee job security during their absence.  New York was one of the last two states in America that didn’t have this type of worker protection and it was long overdue.  In May, we saw the passing of the new NYS minimum wage law.  Although this law has created some challenges for us at the bargaining table there is just no question that workers in our state needed a raise.  New York is definitely one of the most expensive states to live in and workers making $7.25 an hour just wasn’t cutting it.  Finally, on July 14th NYC Mayor Bill de Blazio signed Executive Order No. 19 titled, “Labor Peace for Retail Establishments and City Developments Projects”.  Subject to some thresholds for the size and type of project and the amount of “Financial Assistance” received for a “City Development Project,” this order mandates that developers agree to a “labor peace clause.” In turn, the labor peace clause will compel the developer to require certain large retail and food service tenants to enter into a “Labor Peace Agreement” prohibiting their opposition to a “Labor Organization” that seeks to represent their employees.

President Speelman has reviewed staffing levels in every department of your Union and we have added new staff in multiple places.  This year we hired 3 displaced Pathmark workers, 2 currently working in the Office and 1 for the Organizing department.  2016 has also seen the return of the Membership Servicing Program and I’m sure that many of you have already met Rafael “Big Ralphie” Mauleon in your stores.  Ralphie was also previously displaced during the Pathmark store closings in early 2012.  We are still actively looking for a second person for this program and would love to hire another displaced member.  If you’re interested, please send an email and your resume to jobs@ufcw1500.org.

Obviously no one knows for sure what the future holds but I believe that if this positive trend continues we can keep growing stronger together.  Sometimes a few of you don’t understand why we fight to protect or enhance the working conditions of non-union workers, or why we endorse and support certain political candidates.  I can assure you that when you try to represent the opinions of over 20,000 families at the same time there is certainly never a perfect candidate in any election.  Our goal has always been, and will always be, to support the candidate(s) that represent pro-worker legislation and/or those that will not look to strip the rights of unions at the bargaining table.  As for the millions of non-union workers that benefit from Labor’s successful political efforts, we prefer to look at them as future members we just haven’t signed up yet.  More non-union workers than you think know full well that it’s the Union’s that helped improve their working conditions, but it’s all of our job to get out there, find them and get them signed up.  I am looking forward to helping continue the positive trend and I look forward to seeing you in the stores and at the Union events this year.