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The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1500 is protesting the decision of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) to open some stores on Christmas Day this year.
In a letter to executives at the Montvale, N.J.-based chain, leaders from New York state’s largest grocery workers union acknowledged the Northeast regional retailer's ongoing financial difficulties, which culminated in its filing for Chapter 11 restructuring in December 2010, but argued that “as this very difficult year draws to a close, now more than ever, we should respect and welcome a day off for reflection and uninterrupted time with friends and family.”
Members of UFCW Local 1500 plan to pass out handbills at A&P stores this week to encourage shoppers to contact A&P management and express their disapproval.
“Now is no time for A&P/Pathmark management to play the role of the Grinch,” said Anthony Speelman, secretary treasurer of Westbury, N.Y.-based UFCW Local 1500, which represents 23,000 grocery workers in Long Island, the five New York City boroughs, and Westchester, Putnam and Duchess counties. “Their employees have suffered through store closings, uncertainty and lost wages. Asking our members to work on Christmas Day shows a stunning lack of compassion and another example of this ‘War on Christmas’ we seem to read about each day. Even the Grinch would be shocked by A&P/Pathmark’s decision and would question if they had any heart at all.”
Making its case for the stores to remain closed on Christmas, the union noted in its letter to management that “Pathmark members and your company just concluded a year of very difficult and contentious negotiations. Our members have sacrificed much to assist your company as it moves to emerge from bankruptcy. During the year, stress levels for all parties involved were very high as stores were closed and rampant rumors of the company's demise put thousands of workers and their families on edge. This year was an emotional rollercoaster for many.” So far, Local 1500 has received no written response from A&P.
When contacted by Progressive Grocer, A&P responded that it was "committed to being the store of the neighborhood and serving the needs of our diverse customer base. Therefore, we have made the decision to open some of our store locations with limited hours on Christmas Day. The company plans to staff the stores with associates who wish to earn additional income by volunteering to work on Dec. 25."
The union additionally sent a letter to Gristedes Supermarket requesting that the New York metropolitan area grocer remain closed. Local supermarket chains such as Stop & Shop, King Kullen and ShopRite plan to close for Christmas Day.