2011-11-04 / Top Stories

Supermarket Union Battle Shaping Up

By Nicholas Briano

Waldbaum’s on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 112 Street. Waldbaum’s on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 112 Street. Another union battle is beginning to take shape on the Rockaway peninsula. The members of UFCW 342, which represents the employees of Waldbaum’s, are facing wage freezes and a decrease in benefits as the bankrupt A&P Company restructures its line of supermarkets.

A&P, which owns Pathmark and Waldbaum’s, announced last year that it had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. The company, in its efforts to restructure, closed a series of stores earlier this year with the Rockaway Park Waldbaum’s escaping the axe. But now union officials are charging the company is proposing a serious decrease in union worker benefits to union employees.

Kate Meckler of UFCW 342 says the store is trying to use the bankruptcy proceedings to their advantage, which would reduce vacation, personal time and even freeze wages. She wants the store to continue hiring qualified union employees while negotiating in good faith with current members.

“Other supermarkets have the same identical union contracts and those stores flourish,” she said. “This is more about a case of mismanagement than it is about union benefits.”

Therefore Meckler believes slashing union benefits and freezing wages is not the answer to A&P’s successful reorganization.

Longtime butcher, Nathaniel Gardner, who has been at the Rockaway Park Waldbaum’s for 14 years, says the store’s troubles stem from a simple case of mismanagement.

“I have sent three boys to college working as a union member,” he said. “The union has been good to me and I stand fully behind them. If they are restructuring here I really don’t see it.”

When asked if Stop & Shop has had a negative impact on the store, Gardner admitted that, too, is part of the problem.

“They have put a dent in things here,” he said. “But it’s still mostly a management issue. If they are restructuring these stores, I just don’t see it. Our shelves are empty and goods are coming in later than expected.”

Meckler estimates that the restructuring process is expected to conclude sometime early next year.

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