Union Responds To New York City Study on Lack of Supermarkets

Union Applauds Bloomberg and Chairwoman Amanda Burden

QUEENS VILLAGE, NY (04/22/2008)(readMedia)– New York State’s Largest Grocery Workers Union Commends Mayor Bloomberg and City Planning Commission for Supermarket Study; Pledges full Support and Resources

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, New York State and New York City’s largest Labor Union representing supermarket workers, applauded a study done by the New York City Planning Commission that determined that the shortage of supermarkets in New York City leads to an economic, health and nutritional crisis. The results of this study directly support the same claims presented by UFCW Local 1500 in previous meetings with the Bloomberg Administration.

“Our Union commends Mayor Bloomberg and Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden for directing that this study be done and for providing factual data for what New Yorkers have known for some time: that New York City seriously lacks traditional Supermarkets and it effects their health, their wallets and their communities,” stated Bruce W. Both, President of UFCW Local 1500.

“The 22,000 members of our Union now look forward to working with the Administration, Speaker Christine Quinn and City Food Policy Coordinator Ben Thomases on developing best practices that will encourage the preservation and growth of Supermarkets in all five of the City’s Boroughs. We pledge the full support and resources of our Union and its 22,000 members,” stated President Both.

“We must now sit together and understand what is causing this exodus, what is preventing new stores from opening and making sure that communities have responsible supermarket operators located within them. People must have access to healthy, affordable food from stores that provide living wages and health benefits. We must especially help those communities of limited economic means and the highest levels of health care problems,” Both concluded.

UFCW Local 1500 also announced the roll out of a campaign entitled “The Building Blocks Project”. The Building Blocks Project has been working for several months with food, health and nutritional advocates, as well as other Unions, Supermarket owners, New York City’s Central Labor Council, the State AFL-CIO, elected officials and community activist to “ensure that all communities have the Basic Building Blocks of good food, good jobs and good health,” stated Patrick Purcell, Director of Special Projects for UFCW Local 1500. “We have been creating a unique coalition of groups and individuals determined to solve this crisis,” Purcell stated. “More Supermarkets is a win-win situation for communities and the City as a whole, both economically and health wise,” Purcell concluded. The local union, in conjunction with its International Union, is planning a conference in late June to discuss strategies.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 is both New York State’s and New York City’s largest local Union representing grocery store workers. UFCW Local 1500 represents over 22,000 workers employed by Pathmark, Stop and Shop, King Kullen, Gristedes, Key Food D’agastinos and Fairway Supermarkets. Of their 22,000 members, over 10,000 of them reside here in New York City with their families.

UFCW Local 1500’s Building Blocks Project Statement of Food Policy Principles

Food Policy Principles Seeking Greater Access to Healthy Affordable Food

  1. Access to healthy affordable food is a human right regardless of location or income and therefore should be one of the most important goals of NYC public policy.
  2. Health care advocates both public and private seeking long term solutions to disproportionate rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in low-income communities must consider buying power and access to healthy affordable food.
  3. Healthy communities require a variety of purchasing options including: farmers markets, CSA’s, community gardens, urban agriculture, food co-ops and supermarkets. These entities must work together with city and state officials to ensure a balanced range of food sources.
  4. There is a need to use public money to insure that existing and new responsible food retailers can build profitably in low-income communities while simultaneously providing food at reasonable prices.
  5. All types of public/private partnerships need to be considered to finance the preservation of existing responsible food retailers and the development of new food retailers responsive to community needs.
  6. The policy of the City of New York should encourage the preservation and development of supermarkets in low-income communities by discouraging the eviction of supermarkets, changing the existing land use laws, implementing economic incentives, reviewing existing regulatory processes, and mainstreaming of the construction procedure. Special attention should also be given to any new development that includes new housing to ensure food access.
  7. Responsible food retailers produce entry level and skilled jobs, pay a living wage, provide health benefits, pensions, and the type of financial job security necessary for a community to be economically viable, through creating economic stimulus and buying power in low-income communities that ensures food security and good health.
  8. Workers employed by markets not meeting their economic responsibility to provide living wage jobs, health benefits, job security, job training and career advancement should be afforded the opportunity to organize and improve their working conditions.
  9. A regional approach to food procurement at the private and public level will lower the cost of food, create jobs, ensure food safety, support small farmers and reduce carbon emissions, particularly by government and state agencies.
  10. The Federal Food Stamp Program could provide a needed economic stimulus to New York City if it is made accessible to all eligible participants. A unified legislative effort must be implemented to maximize are ability to reform the food stamp program to meet the economic, health, and food access needs of every day New Yorkers.
  11. Partnerships between supermarkets, health and nutrition advocates should be created to fully ensure that communities benefit from increased access.
  12. In conjunction with our effort to expand supermarkets, a citywide education program is needed to promote the three basic tenants that the building blocks of all communities are; good food, good jobs, good health.
  13. Partnerships between supermarkets, local food manufacturers, regional farms, urban agriculture, and farmers markets, will create more local jobs and increase the sale of locally produced foods. Investment in infrastructure like the Hunts Point Market and wholesale farmers market will enhance these partnerships.
  14. A coalition of groups from hunger advocates, environmental groups, health organizations, labor, industry representatives, city officials and community members should be formed both in conjunction with and separate from existing state and city established councils so as to ensure the long term viability of these food policy principles.

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