November 5, 2016
By Joe Maniscalo
New York, NY – Anthony Speelman’s first four months at the helm of New York’s largest grocery workers union sure have been busy — bargaining a fistful of ShopRite supermarket contracts, organizing 60 workers at Hale and Hearty’s main production center & warehouse, and gearing up for another challenging round of negotiations with the giant Stop & Shop grocery store chain in 2017.
Then again, all of the union activity can be seen as the continuation of work the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 15 leader started 40 years ago.
Speelman, who also serves in key positions on both the Executive Board of the New York City Central Labor Council and New York State AFL-CIO, began his five-decades old fight for worker rights as a 23-year-old college student representing fellow Long Dairy Barn workers on Long Island.
“It’s because of my passion and love for the men and women in this union that I’m here today as [UFCW Local 15] president,” Speelman says. “I couldn’t be more proud and honored to lead Local 1500 to become bigger and better.”
The former UFCW Local 15 secretary-treasurer officially became a union staffer in 1986. Twenty years later, he was appointed executive vice-president. During that time, Speelman also distinguished himself as stalwart proponent of civic action.
Earlier this year, he took on the chairmanship of the Long Island Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night Walk.” His other charitable efforts have also made it possible for 1,200 New Yorkers to receive emergency blood transfusions in the last two years.
The UFCW Local 15 head acknowledges that upcoming contracts negotiations will be tough — but after five decades battling for workplace justice, Speelman also couldn’t be more prepared.
“We have contracts that are coming up that are going to be difficult,” he says. “[Management is] looking for the elimination of pension plans and benefits just like any other company. Obviously, we’re not going to give it to them.”