It’s hard to believe how much has changed over the last seven months. This year has been one of the most active for our Union and it’s one that we should all be proud of. President Speelman has dedicated his first year as President to rebuilding our Union, refocusing our efforts in the stores, and most importantly listening to the membership’s opinions about everything that we do. I’m sure that many of you have seen Tony during one of his more recent store visits and don’t worry if you haven’t, I’m sure you will soon.
A few months ago, we reinstituted the membership survey, which can be taken anonymously if preferred. We are trying to maximize the amount of feedback we get from all of you and we are trying to get a full picture of how it feels to be a member of Local 1500. So far we have received hundreds of surveys and they have yielded some great ideas, some membership concerns and some very constructive criticism. You should also know that our Executive staff reviews every response received and we encourage you to keep them coming. If you haven’t taken the survey yet, want to take it again or want to forward the link to other members please visit ufcw1500.org/survey16. This survey effort will not be a one and done process either. Joe Fedele will be crafting additional survey’s in the coming months so that we can target Company specific issues in addition to the issues that affect us all globally.
I’m hoping by now that many of you have seen our “New Member Email” and the “Welcome to Local 1500” video. If not please go to ufcw1500.org/welcome and take a quick look. This video is big news for us and has led to an average gain of over 150 new email contacts per week since we launched this project in mid-October. Sending this email and video gives us access to the newest members of our Union at the earliest stages of their employment. If we want to continue building and growing our Union we cannot do it successfully without the help, support and opinions of ALL our members, not just our most senior or most active ones.
The current campaign to organize Best Market has recently become a much more public battle. A coalition of community groups, labor unions, religious leaders and concerned citizens have begun to take this company to task on a regular basis. The coalition’s main goal is to help Best Market workers gain dignity and respect on the job. Now more than ever the workers at Best Market are seeing that the promises made by the company are hollow and that they are NOT the company that they pretend to be in the media. In September the coalition made, released and ran a commercial on Long Island cable stations that starred many of your hardworking Local 1500 brothers and sisters (visit ufcw1500.org/BY). On September 8th they held an awareness rally in front of the Best Market store in Huntington, NY and have hand billed their customers, at all Best Market locations many, many times. None of this would be possible without the hard work and support of our proud members, especially those of you on Long Island. We need to remind everyone we can to shop Union for all their grocery needs every day.
Recently a few other strong, significant, non-union grocers in our area have started to experience to a good amount of public stress and business difficulty. Hopefully many of you have seen the articles identifying the struggles Mrs. Green’s Natural markets has faced recently. They have closed four stores and just announced the closures of five more. The shelves in their remaining stores are so bare that people are starting to wonder if they can survive at all. You probably remember our very public battle with Mrs. Green’s after they fired a group of workers from their Mount Kisco store in 2014. Do you think they will blame the Union for all their problems again as opposed to admitting that mismanagement and poor decision making are really responsible for their current struggles?
Whole Foods cannot seem to buy themselves any good publicity lately. After many years of being seen as the gem of the natural foods industry they are starting to experience some financial trouble. The reality of what Whole Foods charges for their products and how they treat their employees has come back to bite them in the backside. Same store ID sales are down, the stock price is under a ton of stress and consumer support seems to have shifted to other players in this space. Another operator in this space that has always seemed to shine brightly is Trader Joes. As much as they would love to distance themselves from bad publicity they can’t seem to either. They are finally being outed by their own employees as the difficult employer we have always known them to be. There is a lot more going on behind their customer service counters than they would like the public to know. Some current and former employees have begun working with representatives from the RWDSU/UFCW to help them gain a voice in their workplace and achieve better working conditions. Good luck and fight hard!!
I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly congratulate and thank our Organizing department for all their hard work and dedication recently. Over the past 6 months they have worked tirelessly on multiple organizing campaigns including one very important one that yielded an election victory at the Hale & Hearty soup commissary located in Bushwick, Brooklyn. This is the first NLRB election victory for our Union in a very long time and we look forward to negotiating their first contract. Our Organizers currently have a few other active campaigns bubbling just below the surface as well so stay tuned for more good news on this front. We expect and anticipate that the victory at Hale & Hearty will be the first of many for Director of Organizing Aly Waddy and our Organizing team of Brendan Sexton, Rafael Hernandez, Nick Allen & Bruce Farrands. Keep up the hard work guys, the workers need you!
The months of late 2016 – early 2017 are loaded with retirements down at Frank Meehan Hall. In October, we saw the retirement of our most senior office staff member Sheila Hobson-Jones. Sheila worked in our medical department for over 40 years. In January, 2017, both Leonora Ciofalo from the Pension department and Norberta Volmar from Legal Services are also moving on to spend more time with their families. In March of 2017, Local 1500 will sadly see the departure of our Executive Secretary Jennifer Viran. Jenny, you caught us all by surprise that afternoon but we wish you all the best and want you to know that you will be dearly missed. These four retirements led to us to have to interview and hire new office staff for virtually every department of our Union lately. I am proud to report that thanks to some extra effort by our Recorder Rhonda Nelson and Assistant to the President Joe Waddy we managed to do just that! All our new staffers will be attending the December General Membership Meeting and will formally introduce themselves to the membership that night. Welcome to the team ladies!
I would like to take a final moment to thank all of you again for your support and wish all of you and your families a very healthy and happy holiday season. I hope to see you in the stores soon, stay safe and stay labor strong!!