February 22, 2012
Around Town – By Neal Tepel
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500, New York’s largest grocery workers union, is now actively lobbying New York State elected officials to increase the State’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour. The Union, based out of Westbury New York, said it would mobilize its 23,000 members to contact their elected leaders and demand their support for the wage hike.
Bruce W. Both, President of UFCW Local 1500 stated: “Neither a strong economy nor the American dream can be built on a wage of $7.25 an hour. We must realize New York State cannot overcome its economic challenges in a sustainable way if at the very foundation of its economy are workers living below the poverty line. We must support common sense economic principles and a strong minimum wage is at the top of that list. It is unfortunate that it has taken Albany so long to address this vital issue but our Union looks forward to working with Governor Cuomo, Speaker Silver and members of the New York State Senate to get over one million New Yorkers the raise they so desperately need.”
UFCW Local 1500 is mobilizing it’s members to call legislators, mail in post cards, write letters to the editor, and talk to friends and family members. The Union acknowledges it will have to combat an aggressive and well-funded campaign by the business community who is in opposition to the minimum wage increase.
“It is amazing how much money corporations will spend from their own pockets to make sure no additional money goes into their workers pockets,” said Anthony Speelman, UFCW Local 1500 Secretary-Treasurer. “It is appalling that the voice opposing the minimum wage increase will come from those making ten, twenty even fifty times what those on minimum wage make in a year. Any business that can only survive and profit by paying their workers poverty wages should either rethink their business model or consider another line if work. Regardless, their voices of greed will be drowned out by the voices of need.”
Speelman also sent a strong message to New York State’s elected leaders. “You were sent to Albany to do the right thing for your constituents. You cannot look in the eyes of any of your constituents making $7.25 an hour and tell them that increasing the minimum wage will actually hurt them,” Speelman said. “Should you argue that New York State can only prosper if workers remain at $7.25 an hour, then it may time for you to leave Albany, return to your district, get a minimum wage job and then let us all know how that is working out for you and your family. Perhaps then you will come to understand why New Yorkers need a raise,” concluded Speelman.
UFCW Local 1500 represents grocery workers employed by Shop Rite, Stop and Shop, King Kullen, Key Food, Pathmark, Fairway Markets, Gristedes and D’agostinos. Their members live and work in Long Island, the five boroughs, Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties.