By DAVID A. COOK
Anyone who walks into a grocery store for the next month and a half will see the obvious: this is the busiest time of year for these stores. Naturally, that means it’s the busiest time of year for the partners of Local 655 who are working tirelessly to make sure that families across the region have everything they need for their holiday gatherings.
Make no mistake: this is a tough time of year for grocery workers. They work longer hours, handle more product and customers, and deal with more complications than any other time of year.
THANK A WORKER
If you are a member of the general public and you find yourself in a grocery store between now and the end of the year, please consider doing us all a small favor: thank a worker.
You’d be surprised how far a sincere “thank you” can go during these times. Remember, many of these workers have been on the front lines since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. They have worked during an incredibly difficult time for all of us and they have done so in order to make sure that we can continue to have food on our tables.
Let’s not forget: they have done this while being understaffed. Due to multiple factors, major grocery stores in the region remain significantly under-staffed, meaning more and more hours for our partners with less and less help.
Throughout all of this, they have served the public, even though the public wasn’t always kind to them. By now we’ve all seen videos online or on the news of irate customers screaming at employees over mask mandates or other COVID-related restrictions. While these employees are not responsible for these restrictions, they are faced with the bulk of the anger from customers who don’t understand basic common decency.
They’ve been yelled at or heckled, they’ve had customers behave like petty children, and they’ve done it all while interacting with the public for long periods of time during a global pandemic.
HERE FOR US ONCE AGAIN
Now, as the pandemic recedes — but doesn’t vanish entirely — they are once again here for us during the holidays. While some of us might enjoy more time off this time of year with our families, our partners are enjoying less. Some of our major employers like Schnucks and Dierbergs are offering additional compensation during this time of year, or additional time off near the holidays. Those moves are greatly appreciated, but they don’t truly make up for what these workers go through.
So let me again say this to the general public: Be kind and patient when you’re out buying food this time of year. These folks are working hard to make sure you’ll have food on your table for your family, and they have families of their own that they are working hard for, so a simple thank you, a little extra patience, a kinder attitude, they all go a long way.
To my partners working in the stores this time of year I can’t say anything except for what I’ve said time and time again: Thank you. You’re work during this time of year is always astounding and too often it is under-appreciated by the public. I know that you are stressed and tired, I know that you have been working under the most difficult conditions you’ve ever faced, and I know you deserve more.
Fortunately, our largest employers — Schnucks and Dierbergs – have agreed to early bargaining for the contract that expires in May of next year, and many of you have probably heard about our opening contract meetings the week following Thanksgiving. See the notice on this page for those details. This earlier bargaining cycle will hopefully allow us to move quicker to a final contract which will address the many needs of my partners, whether they are wages, benefits, or workplace rules.
UFCW Local 655 can’t make the holidays an easy time of year in grocery stores, and we can’t magically make COVID go away, or fix the problem of rude customers. However, we can fight every day like we have done to make sure that our partners get what they have earned, and that includes good wages, good benefits, and respect and dignity on the job.
While our partners in the stores work at breakneck speed during a challenging time to help the public, rest assured that this union is working tirelessly to protect our partners both now, and into the future.