Editorial: What’s Next?

When it comes to bargaining your contracts, we have especially seen heightened participation from our membership over the past two years.  From your negotiating committees to the rest of the membership backing them up, you have shown that you will not sit still when it comes to protecting what’s been earned over the years.  I thank you again for all your hard work, patience, and solidarity dealing with negotiations, because as we all know, they are never easy.

As our contract bargaining season begins to wind down, you should stay involved with your Union.  In my last article I said that our Union business never dies down.  We just shift the focal point and head onward to the next challenge.  There are many opportunities for you to stay active in your Local, you just may not know it.  As I have mentioned before, we need your participation in our fundraising drives, and I’ll take a moment to touch on that again.  For the past few years we’ve run a successful bowling event up in Dutchess County.  Although this year’s event has already passed please try and join us next Spring because it is a great time for the membership and a great cause.  We also run other events to raise funds for the Local 1500 Charity Fund, such as comedy shows in Nassau County, fishing trips in Suffolk County, and sporting events throughout NYC.  There is no shortage of fundraisers and membership events that you can attend, across our jurisdiction.

Every year our membership attends the Labor Day Parade in Manhattan.  For the many of you that have attended in the past, you know how cool this event can be.  The more people we get there, the more of a splash we make in the streets of NYC.  This is also a great event for you to bring the kids, as they can walk with us or even ride on our parade float!  This year’s parade is on Saturday, September 9th so come join us!

All of these events are very important, and you should try to be as involved as possible, but we are also seeking your involvement in events that are a little more serious as well.  You were fired up during your contract negotiations and we can use some of that energy to help combat the companies that are seeking to do harm to your company and as a result, do harm to your jobs.  There are non-union companies that are seeking to open locations very close to where you work.  You know what that means?  That means that their employees have fewer benefits, wage increases, and other protections than you do, so that puts their company at an advantage over yours.  Keeping companies like these from opening in our jurisdiction ensures that responsible, union-represented employers like the ones you work for stay profitable.    And thus, we can continue to negotiate better contract terms for you in the future.  Keeping non-union companies out of our neighborhoods keeps you employed.  You may even see some Local 1500 picket lines going up pretty soon to better educate the public about the benefits of shopping Union. 

So, what can you do to help with this problem?  We are in the process of preparing for informational picket lines at least one or two of these companies in the very near future.  And we will need your help walking those picket lines!  And yes, we will pay our picketers for their attendance and participation on the line.  This is a critical event that will most likely run through the Summer, so if you are serious about helping out, and want to make a little extra cash helping out your Union, reach out to our Director of Operations, Paul Santarpia at PSantarpia@UFCW1500.org.  He will set you up with a schedule based on your availability.  

There are other ways for you to keep engaged.  We are running several organizing campaigns throughout our jurisdiction that we could use your help with.  There are current or upcoming campaigns in the Putnam and Dutchess County areas, in the five boroughs (especially in Brooklyn and Manhattan), and in Nassau County.  The message of the benefits of being a Local 1500 member is always delivered best from the mouths of Local 1500 members.  At times we need help talking to workers from non-union shops about what it means to be a union member.  It could be anything from stopping into a coffee shop to offer workers a thumbs-up-type support on their organizing drive — to riding along with our organizing team to visit with workers off-site and talk to them about your union experience.  Working in a union shop, you may not realize that folks who have never worked in a union environment don’t know your point of view.  You can bring a vital perspective to a worker meeting, just by talking about your experiences.  We need your help to keep leveling the playing field for your companies while elevating the quality of jobs in your communities.   

Are you interested in a deeper project in helping other workers join our union?  We occasionally seek members who desire to learn how to help people, to attend organizing trainings held in New York or other states, typically in the northeast.  These training courses are usually multi-day events, so we would secure your time off from your job, as well as pay for your expenses to attend.  It’s an exciting opportunity for you to explore, and who knows, you may just fall in love with it!  Contact us and let me know if you are interested so when the next training program is announced, we’ll already have some folks on deck that we can recommend attending.  You won’t regret it.

Want a simpler way to stay involved?  Don’t forget about our quarterly union meetings at our headquarters.  Please try to attend these quarterly meetings in person if you can as you will hear the current state of our Union, updates on your employers and negotiations as well as a whole lot more.  There is always something significant going on with your Union, so staying engaged is crucial.

From attending a ‘fun-raiser’, to walking with us in the Labor Day Parade, to staffing a picket line and beyond, there is always something important that you can do to stay in touch with us.  We appreciate your support and your presence during your contract negotiations, but that is just one facet of everything that we do to protect your jobs here at local 1500.  Let’s hold onto that energy and use it to help others benefit too.  Don’t ever forget that our army is over 15,000 strong and we know you’re out there because we saw what you could do during contract negotiations.

Remember that the fight to improve your jobs is not only with your company and not only during contract bargaining time.  We are in a constant battle to better peoples’ working conditions throughout New York and there is always something you can do to help that fight.  So reach out to us – by phone, by text, by email, on social media, by direct contact with your representative, or grab me after our next meeting and let’s talk about it.  Thank you for your membership!