Editorial: What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

As we countdown to midnight on December 31st, and gleefully usher in the new year, many of us create resolutions, or commitments to ourselves on what we want to start doing differently.  For some folks it’s getting better in shape physically, and cutting that chocolate cake out of their diet; for some it’s improving on their mental or spiritual health. Others promise themselves to spend less on things they do not really need, and to have a wiser plan for saving money.  Every new year seems to bring a fresh outlook on life.

Have you given any thought to getting more involved with your contract negotiations in the new year?  Or how about helping your union siblings from other companies with their negotiations?  And not just our Local, but other Locals throughout the country?  I’m not saying get on a bus and head to Arkansas to stand on a picket line…but I’m sure there is something new you can do it the upcoming year to show your support.  There is always a contract being worked on, in some stage of negotiations somewhere.  Even within our own Local Union.  And there are several ways for you to get involved.

A few years back, we were having some difficulty negotiating a contract with one of our Key Food employers.  And we created a video in support of those employees.  We had members from different companies record quick videos that basically said, “we are with you during this fight”, and “your fight is our fight”, encouraging them to stand strong.  These quick clips also reminded folks that although it may be someone else’s company now, it very well could be their own in the future, and they would want the same support.  We sometimes get asks for support like this from other unions around the country.  We often look for members to get involved, to speak up on behalf of their counterparts, whether it be in a recorded video, or some other form of media.  Are you willing to do that to help your coworkers and comembers out there?

At any given point in time, we may have an informational picket line up at a particular site.  At the time of this writing, we are running two lines, one sporadically at the Wegmans stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and another at least one day a week at Aron’s Kissena Farms in Queens.  Lines go up and lines come down, especially when we finally resolve the outstanding issues for the members/workers.  I’d venture to say it might take some time to resolve any issues with Wegman’s, but with the help of Locals 342, 338 and our International we are actively working on it.  We are also planning an informational picket line at the upcoming Bingo store in the Five-Towns area.  This store will have a negative impact on our members working in the Kosher supermarkets in the area.  With the employers in that area already doing the right thing by their employees/our members, why would we allow another employer to come in and lower the industry standards and working conditions?  Will your New Year’s Resolution include helping out on one of these picket lines? We could definitely use your help there.

We have also negotiated, and are currently negotiating ‘inaugural’ contracts for some new members of ours.  From urban farms to gourmet markets, and from coffee house baristas to a pie manufacturer, members working in many new companies have joined our Local 1500 family over the past two years.  Although a few are unfortunately now defunct, during their contract negotiation process, these new members need to hear from you.  By the way, get your holiday pies (or any event for that matter) from Petee’s Pie Company in Manhattan.  Trust me, you’re talking to a pie eating professional here and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  

These folks took the huge step to join the best union membership in the world, and they need to see and know just how big our community is.  They deserve to know how strong our membership is.  Reach out to them or go visit them.  Stop in at the Petee’s Pies on Delancy Street and let them know you’re proud of them for joining our union family and for negotiating their first ever contract.  And get you some of that – not just union made pie…that – UFCW Local 1500 member – made pie!

Or, for that matter, hit up a Blank Street Coffee location in Brooklyn or southern Manhattan.  Tell the employees that you’ve got their back and that they are doing the right thing by standing up for their rights and wanting to ensure better pay and safer working conditions.  Welcome them to Local 1500 and tell them a little bit about your Local 1500 story.  

We’re actually right in the middle of negotiations with Blank Street and it is not easy.  Take a moment to think about negotiating a first contract, where there is no “foundation”, or prior contract to base your proposals and decisions on.  There are no ‘Union Recognition’ or ‘Union Security’ clauses; or ‘Seniority Rights’ or ‘Grievance and Arbitration’ clauses.  No prior wages to look back on; No holidays, vacation, or PTO to add to.  No retirement or legal plans. I can go on and on.  In a first contract we are literally starting from scratch, from zero, from a blank sheet of paper (no pun intended in this case).  Think about all of the good things you have had in your contracts for years that they do not have, yet.  There may come a time when we call on the rest of our membership to actively show support for the Blank Street members to help us get them the benefits you have in your contracts.  Will you make that a resolution for the new year?  

You may not have realized it, but all of our contracts are connected in one way or another, and are all in some stage of the bargaining process.  For example, we have baristas that are seeking to organize their worksites, who are closely watching our negotiations with Blank Street to see how bargaining turns out.  So, in essence, what we gain at one set of negotiations may have an impact on a worker’s choice to organize with our union in the future.  What we can accomplish at Blank Street depends heavily on those foundational clauses from our other contracts that I mentioned before.  And similarly, the members at Pomegranate look at what we’ve negotiated at Gourmet Glatt, and the members at the Glatts leaned on what we have been able to accomplish in other negotiations throughout the industry.  Just like some of our Key Food negotiations follow other Key Food sessions, which are based on what we have settled on with ShopRite, and King Kullen, and Stop & Shop, and so on.  The cycle never stops, and although all of our contracts have differences, they are all intertwined with each other.

I mentioned in a previous article that you are always at some point in your own contract bargaining.  You come across things on a daily basis that you would like to see improved upon.  You should be making mental and physical (or digital) notes of these things and building up your lists of demands, or proposals, for your next contract.  So, you’ve got homework!  That should definitely be part of your resolution…to find something to better your own working conditions.  And if you better your own conditions, then eventually you are helping better the conditions of your comembers in other companies out there.  

A year from now, we are staring down the barrel of Stop & Shop negotiations again – the contract for the largest sector of our membership.  Every single member of our union should get ready for this, as it will definitely impact all of you in one way or another, either during negotiations, or at some point after.  Eventually what is discussed there will be discussed with you.  So, even if it’s not actually your contract that is currently being negotiated…it’s your contract.  

Will you make it your resolution to become more involved in 2024?  You can reach out to us if you’d like to give a quote, or record a video of support for other members.  You can reach out to us if you are willing to walk a few hours per week on a picket line.  Come out and say hi to folks that are trying to negotiate their first ever union contract.  And especially be vocal amongst yourselves at your shops about gearing up for negotiations, no matter how far off they may seem at this point.  2024 will have endless opportunities for you to get involved.  When the ‘ball drops’, please remember that you are a part of a gigantic extended family that needs your help, and one that you also can depend on.

From our family to yours, happy holidays and all the best in the new year!  May 2024 bring us closer together and stronger than ever before!