Tuesday, February 9, 2016

In Wake of A&P Bankruptcy, Local 1500 Helps Pass Grocery Workers Retention Act in NYC

New legislation will provide a 90-day job protection for grocery workers who face unemployment through no fault of their own.

Yesterday,  Local 1500 joined elected officials, labor and community leaders, and workers as Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Grocery Workers Retention Act (GWRA) at City Hall.

The GWRA (Int 632-2015) provides for a ninety-day transition period to eligible employees following a change in ownership of a grocery store.

The transition period is a temporary protection for employees who may face unemployment through no fault of their own. The grocery industry makes up a significant portion of New York City’s retail workforce with over 50,000 employees and roughly two-thirds of this workforce coming from immigrant labor.

As we know first hand, our industry suffers from a volatile condition with the eminent merger, closing or the establishment of new ownership of our supermarkets jeopardizing the future of workers and the quality of life of countless communities. The recent A&P bankruptcy has provided a vivid example of this, affecting over 30,000 men and women throughout the northeast. 52 stores were impacted throughout the five boroughs including subsidiary brands such as Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, Food Emporium, and Food Basics. Some stores have been closed, others sold or auctioned, or even transformed into non-supermarket entities.

 Council Member I. Daneek Miller (who proposed the GWRA) noted the importance of the act for both workers and communities in New York City, “Through this legislation we are able to provide communities with stability that would otherwise not exist during grocery transitions. We have already seen the terrible impact that A&P’s bankruptcy had on families throughout the City, and we don’t want to see such again. High worker retention rates are consistently associated with higher customer satisfaction. Experienced employees provide better service – they can find items more quickly, check out customers more efficiently, and provide culturally competent service,” said Council Member Miller.

Retention also keeps operating costs down, passing savings to communities. Turnover, from new training to lost productivity, costs the supermarket industry as a whole close to $5 billion a year. "All too often when supermarkets change ownership, workers' job security is uncertain at best," said Bruce Both, President of UFCW Local 1500, New York State's largest supermarket Union. "It is not fair to these working men and women or their communities, where union wages serve as economic anchors. I commend Councilman I. Daneek Miller, the Progressive Caucus and the entire New York City Council for passing legislation to end this injustice and provide grocery workers in the City of New York with a 90-day window to showcase their skills and stabilize the transition for the community."

The GWRA applies to grocery stores (or retailers with grocery departments) 10,000 square feet or larger excluding areas for storage, loading, food preparation, or eating. For perspective, this size is larger than three professional tennis courts combined and could serve to park roughly 100 midsized sedans. The legislation’s provisions apply only to workers who have worked a minimum average of eight hours a week and have been employed at the establishment for the previous six months.

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