The first few weeks of 2017 have proven to be difficult for Labor under Donald Trump’s presidency. With his attempted appointment of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary, it had become even more clear that he intends on becoming embattled with Unions across the country. On February 1, 2017, National Right to Work legislation, or as I call it “Work for Less Legislation”, was introduced in the House. We have been talking about the threat of this legislation for over 15 years and a few surprising states have recently passed statewide versions of this law. While Right to Work has always had a catchy and appealing ring to it, make no mistake, this is legislation that is designed to weaken the strength of the American worker. Local 1500 has always fought hard to bring our members the finest benefits, wage increases, and job protections in the retail industry. If this legislation becomes law, you can expect to see your standard of living begin to erode. In “Union Shop” states where there is no “work for less” law, employees typically earn approximately 12.1% more than workers in states that right to work laws in effect. If “Work for Less” comes to New York, you will no doubt feel its negative effects in organizing, servicing and especially bargaining more benefits for you.
We are deep into our negotiations with 3 of our 4 Shop Rite companies. So far we have had several sessions, spanning over months. To our SRS, Glass and Mannix Shop Rite members, rest assured that we will not settle on a contract unless we feel you will be proud of it. There have been many challenges with this set of negotiations, including, but certainly not limited to, securing better wage increases and maintain your health benefits, and making sure your pension remains properly funded and healthy for your future. We feel confident, however, that we can and will reach a fair settlement and just need you to hang in there with us a little longer!
The recent drive for many companies to do away with your pension plan has made it increasingly difficult to negotiate on your behalf. Many of our employers are trying to force you to change from our traditional defined benefit pension plan to an annuity or 401K plan. An annuity or 401K retirement plan is a very good option, especially when there is no other retirement plan available. However, when you look at the numbers, there is no question that the benefits provided under our defined benefit pension plan are far more beneficial, especially in the long run, than an annuity or 401K would be. For those members that already have time invested in the pension plan it would be significant change to their retirement security and one that Local 1500 would not recommend.
The pension vs. annuity issue is one of the biggest problems we are facing with Pick Quick Key Food. After decades of negotiating in good faith with an owner who always wanted to do the right thing for his employees, this company changed on a dime and has said “no more”. The owner believes that his opinions of what America’s workforce deserves are more important than the rights and needs of the very men and woman that have worked hard every day and made his family very wealthy. He has drawn a proverbial line in the sand, refusing to negotiate in good faith, and he wants Pick Quick members to believe that they must vote away their own pensions. Why, so the rich can get richer? This is unacceptable to us and we will keep fighting Pick Quick so that all our members can maintain stable jobs and support their families now and well into the future.
Negotiating through the winter months always poses its challenges, especially when working on an inaugural contract. Our Hale and Hearty bargaining sessions have been moving along a little slower than anticipated and we have every hope that we will be able to bring the newest Local 1500 members working at the Hale and Hearty commissary their first Union contract. The commissary environment is very different than the ones you are all used too on the retail supermarket floor. I can tell you that this group of hard working men and women can’t wait to vote YES on their first contract! Stay tuned.
While of this is going on we are also gearing up for negotiations with King Kullen, King Kullen Pharmacy, Shelf Life, Tops and Stop & Shop later this year. For those of you who work in these companies, your contracts expire on December 30th of this year and we have every intention of starting the ball rolling with these companies very early. Watch for proposal meeting notices in your stores in late March or early April for King Kullen and Stop & Shop. Please remember that these are the meetings where we take your proposals, thoughts and ideas and you elect the team that will be sitting across from your company officials. Our hope is to get to the table early, work out good settlements and have them ratified ahead of expiration. Hopefully your companies will come to the table with the same mind set. We expect and will need our members to be actively involved at the proposal meetings, at the bargaining table, and back in the stores throughout this process. For this process to be successful, we need your participation so make sure you come out, stay informed and let your voices be heard!