2016 Challenges

By: Tony Speelman

2016 Challenges

The A&P bankruptcy is over. We saved nearly 2,500 jobs and now it’s time to focus on what challenges we face in 2016.

In 2014 we negotiated a three-year contract ShopRite. The contract is one of the best in the entire nation for retail workers. The contract covers over 3,100 men and women across 15 ShopRite stores throughout New York. We will begin contract proposal meetings soon, and aim to make this contract an industry standard again. We will negotiate wage increases, fight to attain more premiums for part-timers and full-timers, preserve pensions and focus on one more important growing trend in our industry: scheduling.

Last year the office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent warning notices to 13 retailers it believes the chains are using on-call scheduling and that such practices may violate a New York law. On-call scheduling is an enormous cost saving procedure for employers to cut hours during slow times, and pack hours when busy, making scheduling and managing your personal life impossible to predict.  All of these retailers that practice on-call scheduling are non-union. We proudly negotiate in each of our contracts the advance posting of scheduling to assist in managing personal and work life balance.

But there’s another side to scheduling: getting enough hours. Our current contract with ShopRite guarantees a 40-hour workweek for full-time workers, and a minimum 20 hours per week (excluding Sundays) for part-time workers hired before September 27, 2006, 16 hours per week (excluding Sundays) for those hired after. We want to increase guaranteed hours for all part-time workers.

This is especially important to our union after the A&P bankruptcy.  One year ago, 27% of our members worked at Stop & Shop. Today over 40% of our union works under the Stop & Shop contract.  

The ShopRite contract will be our first contract negotiation after Pathmark; we will be setting the tone for our future contracts.

The Key Food Co-op purchased a number of stores during the A&P bankruptcy. Most of the stores opened up as union stores, and we were able to negotiate contracts with their owners.  Although, there are still some that are operating as non-union. This is an issue we will resolve. Key Food in Staten Island on Arden Ave., a one time Local 1500 shop, is now operating non-union because the new owner refused to negotiate with our union.

We need to organize new shops. Best Yet Market purchased four of our former Pathmark stores. The company acquired a total of 10 new stores in the A&P bankruptcy last year and purchased a struggling Mrs. Green’s Natural Market store in Westchester. After these new acquisitions and their expansion, they have 30 retail stores throughout the metro New York region. Some of our former members are now working throughout the chain (based on an agreement we fought for in bankruptcy court requiring every store to hire at least 25% of former A&P employees).

Stew Leonard’s is another new retailer to the Long Island region. The company opened its first metro New York location in Farmingdale this January. The 10,000 square foot store has been packed since it’s opening. Before the Farmingdale store, Stew Leonard’s only had wine stores open on Long Island in Carle Place and Farmingdale.  The company also recently announced it would be purchasing the 70,000 square foot former Pathmark in East Meadow. The idea I’m getting at is there’s a growing number of new grocery chains throughout our region we must organize.  What was at one point a region dominated by unionized grocery stores has become an oversaturated area of supermarkets and specialty shops catered to specific needs of customers. These chains don’t offer competitive benefits and wages. They water down our jobs and threaten our contracts.

Every hard-working person has earned the right to better wages, better benefits, and a better life. We will bring this message to all the men and women working at both union and non-union stores in 2016. I believe we can and we will change lives for the better.

Thank you for your support, and as always, I encourage you to contact me for anything you need (message or tweet me on twitter @aspeel1500 or call me 516-214-1305).

Have a wonderful spring, and I hope to see you at our next General Membership Meeting (March 9th) & our Union Blood Drive  on March 15, 2016 at our Union Hall from 2-8 PM!