Step in the Right Direction

June 2015

By: Anthony Speelman, Secretary-Treasurer

Tony Speelman

It’s been a huge year for our union. Since January we have negotiated five exceptional contracts.  These contracts guarantee wage increases, job security and protect over 13,000 of us, and to put it simply: they’re setting standards for the retail food industry in New York.

In the Stop & Shop and King Kullen contracts, our motivated negotiating committee heard concerns from part-timers and significantly increased the number minimum hours guaranteed for more part-timers.  The committee also defended our welfare and pension plans, and I’m proud to convey to all of you that there will be no major changes in either of the plans.

In the D’Agostino contract our negotiating committee was able to secure three wage increases in one year. Our committee was also able to negotiate a guarantee of 20-hour workweeks for more part-timers.
In the Fairway contract our fierce negotiating committee fought for guaranteed hours for all workers. We simply set the tone and kept the company on its heels the entire negotiation process. Whether it was buttons, signs, or in-store actions, our Fairway brothers and sisters displayed solidarity that gave me goose bumps. Our committee demanded a clause in the contract which would protect every UFCW Local 1500 member’s job in the event that Fairway is sold.  I was truly moved by the solidarity that Fairway members displayed during negotiations.

Each contract increased the amount of company contributions to our scholarship fund. Now we’ll be able to award more scholarships to more of our members. The contracts all contain progressive language that I’m especially proud of, a no discrimination clause which protects every Local 1500 member from any discrimination because of: race, color religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, genetic information or gender identity or expression. This is a paramount victory. I am so proud of our union for putting a foot down in the face of discrimination. Men and women throughout our communities are far too often victims of discrimination. Be proud that our union now protects each of us from any discrimination on the job. This is a right we should not take for granted. Just last week I was speaking to a Whole Foods worker who was terminated for what he wore to work.  A few days later I met a worker from a non-union retail chain who had her hours significantly cut because she was pregnant. Although we may not be able to view some of these protections on paper, do not take them for granted. Our Union fights every day to protect our jobs, our rights and more importantly our respect at work.  These last five contracts we negotiated increase our rights, wages and protected our benefits. Congratulations to every member, and I congratulate the Local 1500 staff along with each negotiating committee member on a job well done.

I’m proud of the direction our Union is heading, it’s a direction our recently deceased former President, Frank Meehan, began taking us. Frank was more than my boss; he was my friend and mentor. There is not one day that goes by without me thinking of him. I want to express my deepest condolences to all who had the pleasure of meeting him. He was, as President Both said, truly one of a kind. To say he will be missed would be an understatement. Throughout the rest of the year we will be aggressively fundraising for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society in his name. I encourage you all to participate in some of our upcoming fundraisers to battle cancer. You can find more info here. Thank you again.