Who could’ve seen 2020 coming? As far as what Local 1500 and our members are preparing for in 2020, I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted it more than a few months ago. Truth be told, when the ball dropped to end 2019 and 2020 began most of us here at the Local knew that this was going to be a year unlike any other in recent history. We were already about a year into Stop & Shop’s proposed acquisition of the King Kullen & Wild by Nature companies without a functional end in sight. We knew that we were going to have to be heavily involved in the US Presidential election later in the year. We knew that we had 19 contracts to renegotiate that cover approximately 11,650 members. We knew that we had Local Union Election of Officers Petitioning that would take place during the 4th quarter. We knew that the Trustees had a great deal of work to do regarding the Pension Fund and trying to find the right solution to deal with the significant credit balance problem it currently faces.
I don’t think that many people thought, on top of all those things I just mentioned, that Fairway (our 3rd largest employer and a part of the fabric that makes up New York City) would file it’s 2nd bankruptcy in less than 4 years less than a month into 2020. The major difference with this bankruptcy is that the same Company will not emerge after the bankruptcy proceedings. Our great members, the stores, the iconic name, the intellectual property, all the merchandise and equipment will be broken down and sold to the highest bidder(s) or displaced.
We were on top of this situation immediately and got down to work. We met with both Union counsel and the counsel to the Pension and Welfare Funds to make sure that both firms were working in conjunction with one another. We then retained one of the most experienced bankruptcy law firms in New York City, Cohen, Weiss & Simon to guide us through the bankruptcy process and to help protect our members rights and interests! As I write this article I can report to you that both Local 1500 and the Local 1500 Pension Fund are represented on the Unsecured Creditors Committee and that an initial (stalking horse) bid was made for up to 5 stores and the PDC by a very responsible Local 1500 Union Employer, Village ShopRite. We are already working with Village to establish a new contract for these stores, to preserve as many jobs as possible and to make sure that this transition is a successful one for our Fairway members. For all our members in the stores not being purchased by Village, we are actively recruiting additional Union bidders to come to the auction to buy those stores and protect your jobs and working conditions as well. We fully understand the difficulty and uncertainty that many of you are experiencing right now and want you to know that we are taking advantage of every opportunity and using every tool at our disposal to secure a positive resolution to this process for everyone.
While all of that has been going on, we are beginning the process of setting up membership proposal meetings for the various companies and getting ready to select your rank and file negotiating committees. Additionally, in February, Secretary-Treasurer Waddy and I asked your Executive Board for permission to allocate another 1 million dollars to the Local 1500 Strike Fund. After that motion was unanimously passed, there was additional discussion with the Board, and we have their permission to allocate additional money (up to another 1 million dollars) during the year if we feel that bargaining isn’t progressing the way it should. Executive Vice President/Recorder Joe Waddy, who also serves as the Lead negotiator for most of our contracts, was very excited that the Board supported these motions because he felt it showed that the entire Union stands ready to support any and all of the members that will be bargaining throughout 2020. I couldn’t agree more Joe!
In closing, I want to say that although my first few months working as your President have been a bit crazy, I remain unbelievably thankful to you for continuing to reward me with the opportunity to serve you and I truly appreciate the trust you place in me to make the best decisions possible regardless of the circumstances. Although 2020 will certainly be a year of trials, occasional uncertainty and more than likely legendary battles, I feel a very strong sense of confidence. The ability of our members and staff to not only take on, but successfully overcome all challenges and challengers has never been less of a question in my mind. Equally as important is knowing the type of year it’s going to be, I couldn’t be more proud and ready to stand side by side with, and fight with you to help achieve all that you deserve. Let’s get back to work!
Robert W. Newell, Jr. - President
The Register Spring 2020