Heating up in February

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By DAVID A. COOK
President

A few unseasonably warm days earlier this month seemed fitting given how ferocious business was heating up at many of our grocery locations. Those of you working in these stores know that the perfect storm struck this year just as we were all enjoying the brief lull of business that tends to come in January.

February of 2024 featured Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl in the same weekend, with Valentine’s Day set to follow less than a week later.

Stores were busy across the board, but let’s take a moment to tip our cap in particular to our floral and bakery departments. What a few weeks they have had. I am once-again reminded just how much our friends and families and communities rely on the hard-working people in our stores to enjoy their holidays.

How many Super Bowl parties depending on frantic trips to pick up beer, chips, wings and more? How many Mardi Gras parties were propped up by well-stocked liquor departments and fresh bakery items? How many Valentine’s Day celebrations require balloons and flowers from our floral departments? Countless celebrations all need the partners of Local 655 to go off without a hitch.

It’s easy to get frustrated at any job, especially jobs in retail. Too often it feels thankless. The community takes you for granted and a few irate or unreasonable customers can ruin an entire shift if you let them. You work hard all week to ensure that other families get to have the parties and celebrations they want, all the while you’re at home a little less during those busy times.

EASY TO GET FRUSTRATED
So sure, it’s easy to get frustrated. Of course, employees are always faced with the wrath of customers when their company makes policy changes. During COVID we all remember how customers would confront our folks in the stores. Whether you had a mask on or you didn’t, it seems like we simply couldn’t please everyone.

So when Schnucks rolls out a new policy limiting U-scan customers to 10 items or less, is it the folks in the corporate office who crunched the numbers that have to hear from angry shoppers? No, it’s our partners in the stores.

For the record, I applaud the decision by Schnucks. First, I’ve never used a self-checkout, and I never will. Those machines take jobs from hard-working people, and if I wanted to scan and bag my own groceries, I’d just return to the stores and work there. Second, as a practical matter, it’s a good idea to give some relief to our folks working in those areas who are asked at times to keep an eagle eye out for shoppers looking to steal. Trying to monitor six or eight or 12 machines, sometimes with customers scanning and bagging a cart filled with products, it’s a difficult task.

MORE HOURS
My hope is that this policy will result in more checkers being scheduled for some shifts, which means more hours for our partners, more money paid into our pension and Health & Welfare fund and a more personal experience for Schnucks customers.

Still, it’s easy to forget about all that when a furious customers is demanding to know why you’re politely asking them to go to the check lane. So when the stores get packed right before a big game, or the day of a big holiday, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture, and suddenly you can’t see the forest for the trees.

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE
It’s important to step back and get some perspective. That angry customer can’t define your whole day because we can’t let unhappy people drag us down with them. That exhausting shift can only make you tired temporarily, and your frustration is never permanent.

Working hard, doing a good job, and enjoying the benefits that come with your union contract: these are the things to remember. Consider how you can visit a doctor or get important medical procedures and actually be able to afford it. Remember that if you’ve been with us long enough, you’ll be able to retire with dignity with your pension, and don’t forget how many other workers in your industry share the same stresses as you but don’t enjoy the union benefits that come with it.

Time and time again you and your coworkers bring he holidays into people’s homes. Without you they would have no spreads for the big game, no last-minute flowers for their spouse, no ready-made cupcake that has folks at the party saying “these are so good, where did you get these?”

YOUR WORK MATTERS
Your work makes that possible. Your union contract makes it worth it in the end. You make the holidays happen, and you make your contract work for you. Your union is here with you, and your work matters.

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