Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Union-Made New Year's Eve

Celebrating New Year's Eve with some spirits tomorrow?

Here's a some union-made spirits to enjoy.

If you plan on celebrating, please do so responsibly and safe!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season!  Thank you for your tireless work this season!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our New Union

By: Tony Speelman

As I mentioned in my September column, 2015 year was an enormous test for our entire union. It feels like years ago that we negotiated eight new excellent contracts in the early months of 2015. The new contracts provide a better life for over half of the 22,500 hard working men and women in our union.

After negotiating the new contracts with eight different companies, A&P (the parent company of Pathmark) filed for bankruptcy and announced it would be closing its stores. The A&P bankruptcy has affected tens of thousands of lives, displaced thousands of hard working men and women, and now that the last Pathmark store has closed, its changed the entire landscape of our union.  In January of 2015, 27% of our members worked at Stop & Shop. As it sits today after Pathmark stores were sold off in the bankruptcy, over 40% of our union will now bargain under the Stop & Shop contract.  
  In January of 2015, 27% of our members worked at Stop & Shop. As it sits today after Pathmark stores were sold off in the bankruptcy, over 40% of our union will now bargain under the Stop & Shop contract.
The bankruptcy has displaced many men and women, however it has also created many new opportunities for our members who worked for the unreliable, greedy, A&P corporation. Because of the work of our entire union, over 2,000 of our members have continued their careers, kept their benefits, and continued their pension contributions with Stop & Shop, Key Food, ShopRite and Food Town. In addition we also gained more than 700 new members through Key Food, ShopRite and King Kullen purchases of former A&P stores. That’s the definition of what it means to be union. We stick together through good times and bad, find solutions for problems, and we don’t abandon our brothers and sisters.  

This wasn’t done overnight. Stop & Shop, like every company we work with, runs a business. Management’s number one concern is saving money. When it was announced that Stop & Shop would be purchasing a number of A&P stores, we immediately began negotiating with them to insure all union-members would keep their jobs, their pay-rates and benefits.   I would like to thank Stop & Shop for reaching an agreement that did just that.

For the many workers at Pathmark stores that were bought by other employers, you know that wasn’t the case for every transition agreement. Some new store owners wouldn’t guarantee jobs, and when they did, most said they’d only hire at reduced rate! This is the battle we have fought tirelessly over the last six months and will continue to fight in the future. Securing jobs, benefits, pensions and better lives for all Local 1500 members is our number one goal.

We are working on getting new jobs for our Pathmark members at stores that were not bought. We initiated a Pathmark Bench, a rolling detailed list of members affected by the bankruptcy who are looking for a new job. I’m pleased to say we placed over 100 of our members in new jobs. In a few cases we were able to help people get new jobs at stores that were not Union. That may turn some faces of readers out there, but let me make myself clear: Our union members are our partners and our family. We will help one another in any way possible during times of need.

In contrast, I encourage you to read the story on page 11 about Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, which suddenly closed its Hartsdale store. You can clearly see the difference between having a union as your partner and being alone. The company gave no warning to its employees, in fact some employees heard about the closing through an email. The workers at the store had no information and no one to turn to. Hundreds of questions arose in their heads about, what’s next? They immediately contacted our Union’s Organizing Department.  Just as our department was there for the eight Mrs. Green’s workers when they were fired illegally and left out in the cold last year, they were for these new workers with no clear future.

Which brings me to why it’s even more important that our entire union knows this. We need to organize new shops. Best Yet has purchased four of our Pathmark stores, and six other former A&P stores. Some of our former members are now working throughout the chain based on an agreement we fought for in bankruptcy court, which required every store to hire at least 25% of former A&P employees. This gives us an excellent opportunity to organize a union at these stores.

Every hard-working person has earned the right to better wages, better benefits, and a better life. We need to bring this message to all the men and women working at Best Yet. I believe we can.

With your support and partnership, we have helped thousands of men and women who would be without a job and benefits keep their jobs or transition to a new one. That’s especially important during this time of year. I thank you for your support, and as always encourage you to contact me for anything you need (message or tweet me on twitter @aspeel1500 or call me 516-214-1305).

Have a wonderful holiday season, and god bless you all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mrs. Green's Polls West Village on How Tolerable They'd be Through a Labor Battle

Naturally unfair to workers. That’s been the tagline for Mrs. Green’s Natural Market since being found guilty of violating their workers rights and illegally firing eight of them for wanting to join a union. The federal charges, terrible press and community outrage hasn’t taught Mrs. Green’s a lesson apparently; numerous residents have notified us that the company’s newest store in New York City has been polling the community on their view of unions, and workers.

The New York Post reported on the odd surveying earlier this month: Just a few weeks after opening a new outpost in the West Village, the upscale, organic grocer has managed to put off its left-leaning customer base while giving union organizers added ammunition. The grocer, in an apparent effort to gauge residents’ attitudes toward unions, asked whether it was “important” to shop at stores that employ union members, said a resident who participated in a phone survey Mrs. Green’s conducted a month ago. -

Residents have also complained about Mrs. Green's garbage on sidewalks
West Village residents saw right through the survey and became aggravated enough to mention it to our Organizing team while walking by the picket line at the store. Among many complaints, a tipster sent our organizers this note: " I just took a long and exhaustive phone survey that was clearly paid for by Mrs. Greens and wanted to gauge their customer’s views on unions and how important a unionized workforce is. I let them know that if I was given a choice, I would always chose a unionized shop. There was a section that tried to do a bit of "push pulling" where they had me respond to every phony argument that management gives for not supporting unions. eg. "employees should be able to speak directly to management" or "union dues will lower employee's take home pay" I said that I disagreed strongly with all the excuses. I thought that you'd like to know."

With 18 stores, mostly in the tri-state area, and aspirations to open more, Mrs. Green’s has been feeling the pressure from our union, enough so to pay for a community poll on opinions of unions.

The real question is, why would a company found guilty of firing workers because they wanted a union, ask a community what they think about unions? For more information and to get involved in the campaign to bring equality and rights to the men and women working at Mrs. Green's, visit

Mrs. Green’s to Suddenly Close Hartsdale Store 

Mrs. Green’s Natural Market announced it would be closing its 20,000 square-foot Hartsdale store on Central Avenue on November 12, 2015. The store opened its doors there only two years ago, on November 22, 2013 According to the Edgemont Community Council, Mrs. Green’s sent an announcement of its Hartsdale store closing this morning to all customers on its email list.

 The announcement stated that it will work “very hard” to find new jobs for its employees and would “continue to service the customers of central Westchester County in many of our other locations like Rye, Tarrytown and Eastchester.” No reason was given for the store’s abrupt closing, but there have been reports of legal troubles stemming from its bills not being paid and customers who shop at Mrs. Green’s in Hartsdale have reported seeing very few people there. Best Yet purchased the lease and re-opened the store a week after its closure.

Read the full story here.

“We immediately began receiving calls from Hartsdale workers who were in a frantic,” said Director of Organizing Aly Waddy, “These hard working men and women had no one to turn to. The company gave them no answers, and they got no information and a short notice they would be losing their job,” Waddy explained. Waddy also indicated that the workers said they rumor was they would receive “some type of severance package” but no specifics were available. A former worker of the Hartsdale store who wished to remain anonymous in fear of retaliation explained the process:
 I was an employee for Mrs. Green’s in Hartsdale when they decided to close it. Most employees found out that the store was closing through an email that was sent out to the customers that everything was 50% off. The HR woman was very aggressive and I mentioned it to her, she doesn't seem like she cares, all she really cared for is that we sign severance papers. I don't know what to do for my coworkers they offered me a position after they told them there are no open positions they screwed us over and the severance package contains a lot of "fishy" stuff…a lot of clauses” 
“The workers throughout the entire chain saw us fight back against the company’s irresponsible practices and work alongside community members in Mount Kisco to get eight illegally fired workers re-hired. They trust that we’re there for them, more than their irresponsible employer. Some workers from the Hartsdale are being transferred to the Mount Kisco location. There is still confusion on how that is being done, it doesn’t seem to be organized, seems almost it’s a favoritism system. Workers with good records and seniority are still being displaced. We are investigating to see if Union supporters were selectively displaced,” Waddy explained.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pathmark: The End of an Era

By: Rob Newell
Assistant to the President

As someone who began his career in the supermarket industry 25 years ago pushing carts part-time at the Pathmark in Bay Shore, it pains me to write this column.  Our members working in the Pathmark stores have faced almost everything a retail food worker could endure during their careers.  Obviously the most difficult times were realized shortly after the A&P takeover of Pathmark in 2007.  As you went to work every day you were forced to sit back and watch as the ever changing cast of A&P executives ran these once profitable stores into the ground.  Over the last few months everyone has done whatever they could to avoid the overwhelming feeling that you were just passing the days as you waited for the inevitable end to arrive.  By the time this column runs the Pathmark banner will have closed its final location, marking the end of a nearly 50-year old company.
Almost all of the remaining unsold Pathmark stores closed their doors on or before 11/23/15.   While the rest of the retail food industry was focused on maximizing its profits during the biggest sales season of the year your stores were being liquidated.  Even at the very end A&P’s decision makers failed miserably by missing one last business opportunity to finish with a few weeks of strong sales.  I know that many of you out there feel that it was yet another intentional slight toward you and your families.  One final insult from the inept, to have you all out of work before the holiday season started. 

At its high point the Pathmark Company employed more than 7,000 Local 1500 members in over 50 stores. The company made forays into liquor stores, drug stores, gas stations, trucking and warehousing, yet they are all gone today. There is no way to measure or to put in words the amount of pain and suffering that has been left behind in the wake of this company's demise.  It was corporate greed and mismanagement that brought the company where it is today, at the cost of its rank and file workers. 

When the final doors close there will be too many people left jobless, too many families searching for a way to rebuild and far too many unanswered questions.  Many of you dedicated your best working years to Pathmark, and in the end you were left at the mercy of a bankruptcy judge. This controlled liquidation could easily be compared to an economic hurricane for all of you.

A few of our members have taken to email, Facebook and/or other social media outlets to lash out, express their frustration and even to point fingers and blame for what has happened.  Although it is understandable that people are angry, some people’s expectations that the Union had the power to keep this Company in business are just unrealistic.  Some have even accused the Union of impropriety, for making the necessary Pension modifications to keep everyone’s pension safe after the stock market crash of 2008.  We knew then, as we do now, that any change to the Pension rules would cause difficulty for some members, but we also had an obligation to provide an opportunity for every member to collect his/her pension when they reach retirement age. 

Change is never easy to accept but a failure to change would have led to a catastrophic series of events that would have negatively impacted tens of thousands of our members.  Throughout its history Local 1500 and its leadership have never represented anything less than the whole truth to the membership in every representational situation regardless of the outcome or public opinion.  To simply post a few inflammatory points to incite drama or make people feel worse, while ignoring the truth and the entire story is not only shortsighted, it is useless.          
Over the last few months Local 1500 successfully negotiated acquisition agreements with Stop & Shop and King Kullen, and new contracts with Key Food for 16 of our former Pathmark
stores (as outlined by Secretary-Treasurer Tony Speelman this month).  A number of other stores were purchased by owners that have union contracts with other UFCW/RWDSU Local unions as well.  More than 2,000 of our former Pathmark members are currently working for Stop & Shop, King Kullen, Foodtown, ShopRite and Key Food. 

From the beginning of this bankruptcy process Local 1500 focused on three main goals 1. Keeping people working, 2. Finding union buyers for stores with no bidders and 3. Maximizing our member’s chances in bankruptcy court.  The Unions took that idea even further than ever imagined when we lobbied the judge to compel any non-union buyers to guarantee our members jobs, even without a Union contract.  Although we had hoped that all of your jobs would be protected, the judge stated on the record that before he would approve a sale to any non-union buyer, they would need to agree to offer a minimum of 25% of the jobs in these stores to former A&P employees.  Local 1500’s attorneys also successfully exposed an attempt to fraudulently circumvent the courts auction process for the Flatlands Avenue store and were instrumental in getting the bid awarded to Food Bazaar, a union operator.   

As Pathmark’s final days as a major supermarket operator have now passed us by we wanted to take another opportunity to say thank you to all of the Local 1500 members, both past and present, who worked for Pathmark.  We want to thank you for all your hard work, dedication & support for your customers, the company and your Union throughout your Pathmark careers.  Throughout the conclusion of the liquidation process and well into the future your Union will continue to work with you to help ease your transition in any way that we can.  Whether it be through hosting additional Resource Fairs, notifying you of upcoming hiring fairs and job openings, or influencing our other Union operators to hire from the Pathmark Bench (the pool of displaced members, please sign up on We're also trying to secure temporary seasonal employment opportunities available through our current employers. 

The uncertainty that the future holds for many of you is not something that we take lightly.  We anticipate that there will be many new battles for our current stores in 2016 and beyond and hope to staff all perspective actions and programs with our members. So please, make sure to fill out the displaced workers bench form on our website ( with your information.  Having accurate information readily available will give us faster access to you as those needs arise. 

Thank you again for your service, dedication and allowing us to serve you. As a tribute to Pathmark members of the past and present, I’ve selected a few photos to honor where the company sits in our proud union’s history.

Thank you again. We are sincerely dedicated to make you as proud of us as we are of you.  ­

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Gig Economy: Food Retail 2.0

By: Bruce W. Both, President

2015 presented many challenges to our union. The A&P bankruptcy obviously overshadows them. The bankruptcy comes at a time where the traditional grocery store’s future is very much in doubt.
Companies are now merging in order to compete in the enormously difficult business, which is dominated by competition from Walmart, CVS and drugstores, and specialty stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes.

Earlier this year Ahold (Stop & Shop, Giant, Martin’s) announced a completed merger agreement with Delhaize (Hannaford, Food Lion), a direct competitor. According to Supermarket News, the merger, valued at $29 billion, would result in some 2,000 U.S. stores and 6,500 stores worldwide, with sales of more than $44 billion and 375,000 employees.

Last year, Safeway and supermarket chain Albertsons merged creating a network of 2,230 stores, 27 distribution facilities and 19 manufacturing plants with over 250,000 employees across 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Earlier in November, another major merger was announced between Roundy’s and Kroger. Together Kroger and Roundy's will operate 2,774 supermarkets and employ over 422,000 associates across 35 states and the District of Columbia. Following the closing, Roundy's will continue to operate its stores as a subsidiary of The Kroger Co. and will continue to be led by key members of Roundy's senior management team. The company announced there are no plans to close stores, and promised “associates will have employment opportunities with both companies”.

That’s three new super chains, employing over 1 million people. I’ll repeat that, three supermarket chains that employ over 1 million Americans. That’s where our industry has gone.

This is the first reality of our industry: Mergers.  Mergers between traditional supermarkets create more buying power and more ability to compete against the Whole Foods and Walmarts of the world. However, mergers focus more on stock prices rather than the affect they will have on the men and women who make these companies successful. Consolidation of costs follows mergers, which leads to cutting labor and closing unnecessary stores, which ultimately leads to the loss of jobs. The Washington Post wrote about this recently,
The supermarket, which rose up in the 1930s and had its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, has long relied on its convenience and size for its popularity. It’s been the place where you can find 10 different types of pasta or five different brands of peanut butter.  You’ll find that peanut butter in the aisle, not because of its popularity, but because the company usually has paid the supermarket to put it there.
According to the Washington Post, stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s work on a different model: relentlessly present only what you think the customer wants. Trader Joe’s, for instance, is especially brutal in its decisions about what to put on its shelf space. If the product doesn’t sell well enough, it’s rotated out for something else.
This competitive model has contributed to a major loss in market share. Over the past decade, supermarkets have lost about 15 percent of their market share to other retailers, according to Phil Lempert, an editor at Supermarket News. Drug stores like CVS & Rite-Aid pop up on every block throughout our neighborhoods.  Walmart & Target have opened stores with fresh produce and dry goods, while CVS has stocked its aisles with eggs and ice cream. The continued expansion of Wal-Mart, which has more than one-third of the national grocery market, continues to threaten traditional supermarkets. Shopping habits have changed the playing field, and it’s time we wake up to this. We all know this, the stores we grew up in, must evolve. 

The competition is fierce, and we haven’t even gotten to worst of it. The second reality is technology. Companies like Fresh Direct, and AmazonFresh, and startups like, Blue Apron, or InstaCart are now revolutionizing our entire industry. I know many of you reading this right now either know someone who has worked or is working for one of these companies.  On-demand shopping habits through the digital age have molded our society’s workforce into on-demand workers.

Two-income families are prevalent across America, therefore there aren't as many stay at home parents shopping during the day. This leads to busy families who are hurrying after work to the store so they can easily throw together a meal. During the week, people don't want to wander through aisles of endless pantry items; they increasingly want prepared foods and other quick options.
The success of Uber is made off the backs of the thousands of on-demand workers throughout the world. We must react before our industry becomes ‘on-demand’ and loses the benefits, rights and securities we’ve earned.

Start-ups like Instacart and companies like AmazonFresh are revolutionizing the way grocery shopping is done. Customer habits have changed, and shopping through your smartphone or computer is the new norm.

Technology is creating an at-will contracted workforce. The problem when everyone is an independent contractor is there is no unity, no partnership.  It’s impossible to attain any benefits, security, steadiness in pay and most of all scheduling. How can we expect to support our families in this Uberfication of the grocery industry?

We can’t. That’s why we can never stop fighting for the better life that all Americans have earned with their hard work.

The greatness of America is evident when hard work is rewarded, and every family has the opportunity to succeed and earn a better life. No one who works hard should live in poverty, or struggle to pay the bills, or worry about the future.

We must make sure that companies are not taking advantage of their employees, because without their employees, they are nothing.  We look forward to facing these challenges together in 2016.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to you and your loved ones.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What's News This Week?

Wal-Mart’s growing trade deficit with China has displaced more than 400,000 U.S. jobs

New report from the Economic Policy Institute outlines another effect Walmart is having on our economy. Read the entire report @EPI.

It's not too late to make that gift union-made!
According to court documents, K-50-15 Corp. has offered $1 million for assets including the Pathmark logo, trademarks and brand names Pathmark, Chefmark, Big Deals and Sav-A-Center; the Pathmark Gospel Choir Competition; and the domain name.
18 workers have died in the last fiscal year in NYC due to construction accidents. A rally with coffins took place this week to raise awareness and call for safer construction sites.
"They haven't given us any respect," said Carl Maxwell, a nine-year veteran of the company who was among about three dozen workers waving picket signs as the sun rose outside Coke's facility in the Chicago suburb of Niles. "We don't want to be here, but we have no choice."

Read more here:
New York state oversight board on Wednesday upheld the decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to gradually raise the hourly minimum wage for many fast-food workers to $15.
The New York Industrial Board of Appeals rejected the National Restaurant Association's arguments that that the wage order was unconstitutional, arbitrary, unsupported by the evidence and focused improperly on fast-food chains with more than 30 locations.
Read the full ruling here.

When Jon Stewart and a group of 9/11 responders walked the halls of Congress this past week hoping to get commitments from senators to pass a permanent 9/11 bill, what they mostly got were business cards.
For Ray Pfeifer, a veteran of the New York City Fire Department with stage 4 cancer, those cards didn’t mean much. He threw them away. And he didn’t have them to show for a camera crew later when Stewart wanted to demonstrate what passes for commitment in Washington.
All large-sized supermarkets will have to sign contracts with a charity group to facilitate food donations.
"It's scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods," Socialist member of parliament Guillaume Garot, who sponsored the bill, said.
Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald Trump continues to sit atop the polls in the GOP presidential race.

An Iraq War Veteran explains how defending America against climate change, can help defend our country.
Thank You:
It's often a thankless job, so we'd like to say, thank you. And thank you for being a subscriber. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Union-Made Gift Guide Day 2: Everybody Loves Chocolate

English: A Baby Ruth candy bar split in half. ...
Baby Ruth is made by Nestle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: An array of Nestle Munchies candies.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We couldn't wait more a day until we got to holiday chocolate in our gift guide. Everyone eats a little more sweets this time of year, so when you're diving into the Chocolat make sure it's union-made!  In August, Nestle employees voted to unionize with the Steel Workers & the Teamsters represent Nestle workers as well. Maybe this will make your chocolate desires feel less guilty.

Nestlé Chocolate Gifts:

Holiday hard candy, molded solid chocolate, tins and festive packages filled with Nestlé Treasurers, Laffy Taffy, Flips Pretzels, Kathryn Beich specialty candy, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, BB’s and Pearson’s Nips.

Credit: BCTGM Local 1 (Chicago) and Local 342 (Bloomington, Ill.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Union-Made Holiday Gift Guide: Day 1

Holiday Season is here. Struggling for some gifts that are meaningful, while produced responsibly? We'll be posting a new union-made gift idea each day for the next two weeks.

Books: Joelito’s Big Decision /La Gran Decisión de Joelito
An English/ Spanish bilingual story about a boy and a burger 

Ages 6-12+
Joelito’s Big Decision /La Gran Decisión de Joelito is dedicated to the families of workers who toil in restaurants, chain stores, care washes and other industries that fail to pay a living wage. The bilingual children's book is a story that addresses serious social realities both adults and working families face each day. While most media focuses on adult’s reactions to injustices, Joelito’s Big Decision /La Gran Decisión de Joelito confronts an even more important problem: how the youth will respond to the ever-growing problem of economic inequality in our country.  The book is a great education tool for children; daring readers not just to think about the food they're going to eat, but the treatment of workers making their food.

The book is union made, and available at for $10.