In 2006 Fairway opened a store in the seaside community of Red Hook, Brooklyn, a neighborhood starved for a quality supermarket. The store was an instant success, creating over 300 union jobs and becoming a favorite among Brooklyn residents. The store’s popularity helped Red Hook in a huge way, as small businesses began to grow surrounding the store to take advantage of the tremendous traffic Fairway received. The 52,000 square foot store sits on the banks of the New York Harbor, with a spectacular view to the Statue of Liberty. In November when Hurricane Sandy hit, the waterfront store was flooded with five feet of water, destroying millions of dollars in food, merchandise and equipment, and leaving hundreds of union members with nowhere to work.
UFCW Local 1500 members went to work after the storm, helping other disaster relief organizations clean up the damaged food and property. “It was crazy, real crazy” said Theophilas Harvard, a union member for over 7-years, who helped clean the store days after the storm, “There was so much damage, we cleaned up for weeks.” Union workers helped clean up the destruction for over 20-days, filling over 70 dumpsters with damaged items. The damage in the store was so severe officials announced it would remain closed for 3-months, targeting March 1, 2013 as a re-open date.
So what does an employer do with over 300 workers during the 3-month reconstruction? If you recall last year Target (a non-union employer) in Valley Stream closed for a 7-month reconstruction. They laid-off nearly half of their 250 workers, and rehired a new workforce at lower pay upon reopening. Fairway took a different approach. They insured all 300 workers from Red Hook a job at another one of their 11 stores.
Sounds great, right? But how would the workers from Red Hook get to their new temporary jobs at other stores, some over 25-miles away? Fairway provided free hourly bus shuttles to the temporary jobs. When they could have easily taken the easy route and told employees “tough luck, you’re laid off”, like Target did, Fairway displayed the fabric of a responsible and sustainable employer. “In times of economic hardship having a company like Fairway giving every one of its employees an opportunity to work at another location until their home store reopens, is a testament to the type of company they are and type of strong labor relations we have with them,“ said UFCW Local 1500 Field Director Rob Newell. “Our first priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of all our employees,” said Charles Farfaglia, Vice President of Human Resources at Fairway, "There would be no Fairway without them, they are Fairway."
Fairway also organized multiple relief efforts to help residents in need, donated nearly 3,000 turkeys to centers in Brooklyn and Staten Island and offered shuttles for residents to their Manhattan locations to sustain community access to food during aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. As Thanksgiving rapidly approached, Fairway saw another opportunity to help their community and put together a Thanksgiving feast for over 4,650 storm victims, ensuring the devastated community would be able to celebrate Thanksgiving.
UFCW Local 1500 Members from Red Hook were shuttled to locations as far as New Jersey and Westchester, and as close as Manhattan. 11-year union member, Tomas Caceres, was glad to retain his job during the reconstruction, “It was an easy, it took about a week after the storm to get placed in a temporary store,” said Caceres, who is now working atKips Bay in Manhattan, “The storm was a shock, but I’m ecstatic to be able to work while Red Hook is getting reconstructed, and now my commute is actually faster!” Caceres joked.
Fairway plans on re-opening the store on March 1st. The New York Times reported the repairing and reopening the store would cost close to $10 million. With the grand re-opening approaching residents and transferred union members are getting excited about Fairway’s return to Brooklyn. Alvin Augustin, a fish cutting master and union member for over 13-years, was transferred to two different Manhattan locations and is now temporarily working at the Kips Bay store. “It’s one big family at Red Hook, I’m excited to go back to Brooklyn,” Augustin said, “I cut the best fish and Marty Markowitz (Brooklyn Borough President) is one of my biggest fans.” Harvard, who helped clean up the damaged store will be returning in a few weeks to prepare to re-open it, “I’m excited to go back and re-open it,” Harvard explained, “I helped clean it up after Sandy, and now I’ll help re-start it, it feels good to do that.”