One of our older slogans is “Preserving our Past and Protecting Our Future.” We will always remember the struggles our forefathers and foremothers endured to make this Union the great entity it is today. Hard-fought battles that resulted in improvements in working conditions and benefits over the years are the foundation our Union is built on. We should never forget where we came from. But as we look forward to the future, what steps do we need to take to ensure that we not only keep what we have achieved and attain more, but also insulate our membership from any unforeseen pitfalls or danger that may arise?
Let us face it, the world has changed over the past 18 months, and we need to adapt to potential challenges that we may not have considered in the past. When we have said “Protecting Our Future” we typically meant fighting for better wages, health and retirement benefits, and an overall better livelihood for our members. What the pandemic has taught us, however, is that protecting our lives, especially while on the job, has arguably become the most important benefit we should be fighting for.
As we seemingly are finally managing the coronavirus pandemic, we need to be aware of the potential that something like this could unfortunately happen again. We cannot take a health crisis for granted and we must remain ready to jump in to protect one another again. Needless to say, we should always continue precautions such as hand washing and sanitizing, social distancing, or mask wearing when applicable or desired. These measures have helped us safely navigate through the pandemic, and we should not forget that. Think about this…with social distancing, mask wearing, no shaking of hands, plus sanitizing and washing our hands frequently, and an overall greater awareness of the potential of germs…outside of Covid-19, how many of us have gotten sick over the past 18 months? Being safe and smart really works!
But we should not stop at just personally protecting ourselves. We have to maintain a standard of protection throughout our job sites. It is the only way we will continue to be protected. We must continue to engage with company executives to keep safety our number one priority. Supermarket operators must remember all of the steps that enabled their employees to maintain their health and for their stores to remain open. We are only getting through this pandemic because we all took these precautions seriously, and if we continue to be cautious, we should be able to mitigate whatever may come our way more quickly. We do not need to get ready if we stay ready.
We must speak with our elected officials and make sure they continue fighting for the people that they call “essential.” We cannot be essential one day and then not essential any day after that designation. It does not work that way. We have said it before, you have and will always be essential. And the people writing laws for, and running our towns, cities, and states must always be reminded of what you did during the pandemic. We are always looking for our members to speak up on behalf of supermarket and retail employees to our local politicians. The message always resonates louder and longer when it comes directly from you, so please reach out to your Union Representative to become involved in the process.
Finally, we need to look out for one-another. We are a Union, and we are only strong if we all stick together and have one loud voice. That does not just mean during contract negotiating time…it means all the time. Think about the health and well-being of your coworkers, and they should do the same for you. I know for a fact, that someone reading this knows someone that passed away related to the coronavirus. In many cases, that person contracted the virus from being at work. Our future has to include all of us making sure that we work in a safer environment than ever before. If you ever feel unsafe, it’s because chances are it is unsafe. And if you feel that way then chances are your coworkers feel the same way. So, get together and speak up. Looking out for your coworkers can potentially be a life and death situation. Stand up and protect your coworkers because protecting their future also means protecting yours!
Joseph D. Waddy - Executive Vice President/Recorder
The Advocate, June 2021