2017 has been a crazy year for the membership, staff and leadership of Local 1500. To put it mildly it’s been a pretty bumpy ride on a roller coaster throughout our industry. We have had to sign long term extensions on contracts, the likes of which we have never seen before. We have had very public disputes with Employers that we have had long term productive relationships with. We have seen more company mergers and acquisitions take shape and create disturbances for the membership. However, we have also seen excellent contract settlements and the first formal election of our new President and his team. In the supermarket industry today there just never seem to be two days that are alike. When you add the drama routinely caused by politicians and their legislation you just find yourself scratching your head wondering what could possibly come next.
I am proud to report that, after an almost two-year dispute, we have reached a settlement and new agreement with the Pick Quick Key Food stores. This agreement was overwhelmingly accepted by the Pick Quick members and we have already added a new store in Massapequa, NY as a result. For quite some time I think that it’s safe to say that neither management or the Union members thought that a solution would ever be reached. Although it wasn’t easy, because of the support of those members, a positive solution was reached. The new contract protects these workers, their wages, benefits and job security for another 3 years.
While the Pick Quick settlement is great news, there isn’t any time to really sit back and enjoy it. We still have Stop & Shop, Fairway, King Kullen, a few other Key Food chains, Tops, Shelf Life, and Gristedes to handle over the next few months. Negotiations aren’t like they used to be. The Employers don’t typically sit together anymore which creates loads of scheduling issues for the bargainers and some unfortunate delays for the membership. We fully recognize that and appreciate the difficulty this can cause for you and your families and we will strive to get these new contracts negotiated as quickly as we can. At the same time we must protect all the of benefits that you all hold near and dear to your hearts.
Mergers and acquisitions of supermarket companies are more of a reality now than it has ever been before. Whether you are talking about the Stop & Shop/Delhaize merger or the recent Gristedes/D’Agostino joint venture they each have their share of concerns. Whenever two companies merge there is always some loss of their own individuality and standards that the two individual companies have had for decades. This typically causes disruption with all of you on the shop floor. Whether there are changes in payroll, different sales programs and ordering systems or just the introduction of new supervision that comes in with a completely different set of ideas and demands, your lives are all impacted.
When you think about the merger of Amazon with Whole Foods it causes concern as well. Although neither company is Union, when a company the size of Amazon dives this deep in to the supermarket industry they will start to proactively create changes, especially to technology. These changes will certainly spill into your stores over time as well. Whenever one company finds a way to do something cheaper, automate a job or cut costs it tends to spread like wildfire. Whole Foods workers are already feeling the pinch of Amazon’s changes as they cut help, reduce hours, lower prices and budgets and start to introduce new technology to reduce labor costs even further. Those are not the types of trends we want to develop further or grow inside your stores.
Non-Union competition like the new Wegmans that’s coming to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2018 will also create a difficult competitive environment for our employers in that area. There is now the threat of Lidl creeping up the East Coast with reckless abandon. Lidl wants to have over 200 stores in less time than it took most of our employers to open 10. Every time another operator comes into our jurisdiction it creates more difficulty for all of you in your own stores. Sales drop, hours get cut, safety becomes an afterthought and the pressure to get the job done with less help increases every day.
Despite all of these challenges the membership of Local 1500 must stay strong and in support of anything that is beneficial to them and their families. In 2017 over 4000 Shop Rite members, working for four different employers illustrated that perfectly when they stood strong and united until excellent settlements could be reached for all. Without the support, active involvement and dedication of those members the negotiating teams would never have reached a successful resolution. Any concessions made at one bargaining table can and will spread throughout the industry. We cannot, and will not allow the wear away of the standards and working conditions that it took decades to achieve.
As we started the bargaining cycle earlier this year President Speelman and I decided to spend some more time in the stores. We have been talking to you and most importantly listening to you. All of our bargaining goals have been based on those conversations and will continue to be throughout this bargaining cycle. What President Speelman and I recognize is that this is YOUR Union and we are here to serve you. I personally want to thank all of the members and staff who assisted in a successful election process for your Union Officers. Although Tony and I may not know all the members of our great Union, the outpouring of support for our first full election was electrifying. Finally, I want to wish you and your families a great and safe Holiday season and remind you that your Union, its staff and the officers are here for you each and every day. #MyUnionValue