Annual Shop Stewards Seminar 2017

             On the brisk Tuesday morning of October 17th, John T. Niccollai, President of the Local 464A addressed the Shop Stewards of 2017’s annual Shop Stewards Seminar. “If you leave here today, knowing more than you did this morning, today will have been a success”, Niccollai prompted the Stewards to give each and every speaker and their presentation their undivided attention with the sole purpose being-- to learn.

            This year the Stewards were in the company of several truly accomplished speakers who all strived to communicate the significance of being a Steward. Niccollai began with opening remarks centered on the most fundamental benefits that Local 464A has relentlessly provided for its members since its inception.  John highlighted the growth in funds raised over the years by the Union in order to provide a generous health care plan and pension plan by maintaining adequate reserves.

            Following Niccollai’s presentation, the honorable Democratic chairman John Currie spoke briefly about the importance of the union members’ participation in the upcoming New Jersey elections. With that, Currie eloquently introduced Ambassador Phil Murphy. Currie spoke of Murphy’s humble beginnings that have led to a true compassion for the working class. So, with complete respect and reverence for the group he was about to speak to, Ambassador Murphy took the stage.  

            Phil Murphy captured the audiences’ full attention in his gripping speech about the current state of New Jersey and his wish to make the much needed changes to return the state to its once former glory. At the heart of his speech, Ambassador Murphy spoke of a “reigniting of fairness” in New Jersey. Murphy spoke of growth, respect, trust, “a progressive yet responsible government”, that does “big things in a civil way”. In closing, Murphy implored people to go and vote. The New Jersey that they want to live and work in is not possible without the leadership of people believing that the working class people deserve the respect and fairness that has long been left behind. Local 464A thanks Ambassador Phil Murphy for taking the time to come and speak to the Stewards, for his message is surly one that resonated with the members.

            David Young, the region I director spoke next. In his speech, Young underlined the true importance of being a Shop Steward, telling a personal story in which he was affected by Stewards throughout his career. Young upheld the tone that Niccollai set at the beginning of the seminar, with a focus on informing the members of the worth that the union has in people’s lives; a theme continued in the speech that followed, given by Marc Perrone the UFCW International President himself.

            Perrone spoke passionately about the embodiment of what it means to be in a union vs. an independent grocery worker. Further, he stressed the importance of understanding that they are entitled to fair and good wages – that their jobs impact people’s lives. He highlighted the value of the health care that members receive, citing that others pay out of pocket for health insurance and how significant it is that they do not. Perrone ended his speech assuring the people that the Union will always strive to do/be better, that each and every member deserves respect and once again, implored them to be thankful of what they have.

            Louis Giordano, a weight management specialist, and Tony Darrow, a motivational speaker and actor, broke up the informational day with presentations that added a level of fun to the days proceedings. In addition, Robyn Robbins gave an educational presentation about the assets of being in a union in the face of safety and health. She underlined what members should know when facing possible hazards and injuries at the workplace. Once again, the seminar proved to accentuate all the benefits the union offers. Along this same line, Daniel Jones gave a presentation about the “Free College Program” which allows union members and their family’s access to an online college associate’s degree with absolutely no out-of-pocket charge.

            Just before the closing remarks, John T. Niccollai addressed the Stewards once again with a presentation about the incoming competition of a supermarket chain based in Germany called Lidl. Niccollai presented a PowerPoint featuring photos of one of Lidl’s brand new stores in Virginia. In reviewing the stores strengths and weaknesses, ultimately Niccollai left the members with the sentiment that Lidl may pose a serious threat. However, the Union will not allow this competition to crush our stores. Instead, he promised the members that Lidl would either be organized or “sent back from where they came”. The final presentation acted as a lasting reminder of what the Union does to protect its members and stores, yet always being open to the possibility of new contracts for organized labor.

            In closing, the Shop Stewards Seminar aimed to inform Stewards about the multitude of benefits that are available to them in being a part of the Union. Each speaker’s presentation featured a facet of the union’s work to give its members all it has to offer, and it offers so much.  John T. Niccollai closed by asking the audience if in fact they are leaving today knowing more than when they came in. The members responded with a resounding “yes”, marking the success of yet another Shop Stewards Seminar.