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United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 1500, New York state’s largest grocery workers’ union, has begun notifying members of the public and local law enforcement of an impending strike that could affect over 150 Stop & Shop, King Kullen and A&P/Pathmark supermarkets and 16,000 workers. With a contract due to expire June 26, any work stoppage could have a devastating impact on the upcoming July 4 weekend for shoppers and grocers alike. The union and companies are currently attempting to head off a strike through negotiations.
“We have a responsibility to inform the public and local law enforcement that you could see a widespread strike throughout the five boroughs, Long Island [and] Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties,” noted Local 1500 spokesman Patrick Purcell. “A strike in the supermarket industry will have a serious impact on communities in multiple ways. We intend to partner with elected officials and law enforcement to minimize the inconvenience.”
Purcell explained to Progressive Grocer in a brief phone interview that through his experience during a massive 1993 grocery workers’ strike involving 22,000 employees, he had learned that it paid to be “upfront” with such notifications, explaining that police might need to station more officers at stores during picketing, and that officials could then prepare for an increased number of calls from constituents. Also important was that all sides had a proper understanding of picket rules, he added, so that any work action would be “orderly, effective and within the law.”
The union will inform local police precincts, county police and state police of the possibility of a strike, as well as county executives and other elected officials. For consumers, the UFCW has launched a Web site, www.nysupermarkets.com, that will provide public updates on the potential strike.
According to Purcell, at issue are health benefits, pensions and wages.
Queens Village, N.Y.-based Local 1500 represents 23,000 grocery workers in the metropolitan New York area. Contracts with employers such as D’Agostinos, Gristedes, Key Foods and Shop Rite, covering an additional 6,000 employees, are set to expire in September.