By DAVID A. COOK
Some of you have heard me say this before but it always bears repeating: the holiday season would not be the same without the hard working folks of UFCW Local 655 and, in fact, UFCW locals around the country.
Here in Missouri, UFCW Local 655 represents workers across many industries, but the majority of our partners are working in grocery stores or otherwise provide food for the people of their community. Every year, as the major holidays approach we see a similar pattern. Grocery stores become packed with people and our partners work harder than ever before. While many working families use the holidays to enjoy vacation time, many of our partners don’t have that luxury because they are needed in their stores to ensure that families can have what they need on their tables for the season.
During this time of year the community floods into our stores looking for just the right turkey, or searching desperately for the specific spices they need for various dishes. They seek specific kinds of beverages or head to the floral departments to get just the right decorations and centerpieces. They expect every item they need to be on the shelves and sometimes when it’s not they take it out on the people working in these stores.
UFCW MAKES THE HOLIDAYS HAPPEN
The simple fact of the matter is the UFCW makes the holidays happen and they do so by working longer hours, cramming in more work into every shift, and sometimes enduring the frustration or cruelty of shoppers that don’t have the best manners.
By the time you read this Thanksgiving will be about a week away, and the higher workload and busier shifts won’t really begin to slow down for more than a month, once Christmas and New Year’s Day are in the rearview mirror. Every year, I marvel at how our partners manage to get the job done for the community, even if they are understaffed or overwhelmed with customers. When I do my own shopping at the store near my home, I make a point to thank all the Local 655 folks I encounter and let them know that their hard work is deeply appreciated.
YOUR SAFETY IS MOST IMPORTANT
During this stressful time it’s important to remember a few things:
First, more customers and more business means there will inevitably be a spike in shoplifting. That’s just a fact of life. This won’t happen in every location or every day, but it will occur. Make sure you understand that your safety is the most important thing. Nothing in your store is worth risking your safety. Your loved ones need you to come home after your shift. Don’t place yourself in harm’s way.
Next, remember that while you will encounter some shoppers who might be rude, or impatient, or even cruel, this does not reflect the majority of your customers. I spent time in the stores to begin my career, and I had my fair share of grumpy or mean customers, but I also know the number of customers who are grateful for your help. You help them plan their special days and you make sure they have the things they need to welcome their loved ones to their tables, and that is work you can and should be proud of. When the occasional irate customer tries to make your day a little harder, remember that the moment will pass, and that customer is outnumbered by all the shoppers who look at you with grateful eyes because you showed them how to get that one last-minute item they desperately needed.
BE PRESENT WITH YOUR LOVED ONES
While the holidays means added stress at work, it doesn’t have to mean you bring that stress home with you.
I know how easy it can be for folks to be sitting at home and thinking about the next day of work and what it will bring. It’s easy to stress about the workplace even when you aren’t there, but remember for your own emotional and mental health to take time to be present with your loved ones. Most of us work so that we can stop working. We work so we can live a good life once we clock out. Savor the time you get with your loved ones. It’s the holiday season for you, too.
I know I can’t express enough just how honored and humbled I am that you recently re-elected me to be your leader for another three years, but it’s during this time of year that I look around the Labor community, or even the community as a whole, and I get to brag that the union partners I represent are responsible for the joy of the holidays for countless families all around us.
You make the holidays happen and for that, all I can say is “thank you.”