New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday signed the Grocery Worker Retention Act (GWRA) into law. The GWRA provides for a 90-day transition period to eligible employees following a change in ownership of a grocery store.
“We applaud Mayor de Blasio and the city council for passing this important legislation,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “It provides protection for the 50,000 Supermarket workers in New York City – who until now faced a sudden loss of income and benefits when their stores were purchased by new operators. This law provides stability within the grocery industry, protecting workers’ rights and promoting retention while providing for a workforce experienced and knowledgeable in food preparation, health regulations and sanitation procedures. That means that this law will help maintain safe and reliable service to families that depend on their local supermarkets for dietary and nutritional needs.”
The grocery industry makes up a significant portion of New York City’s retail workforce with over 50,000 employees and roughly two-thirds of this workforce coming from immigrant labor. This industry, however, currently suffers from a volatile condition with the eminent merger, closing or the establishment of new ownership of our supermarkets jeopardizing the future of workers and the quality of life of countless communities.
The recent A&P bankruptcy has provided a vivid example of this, rippling through the city with 52 stores impacted throughout the five boroughs including subsidiary brands such as Pathmark, Waldbaum’s, Food Emporium, and Food Basics. Some stores have been closed, others sold or auctioned, or even transformed into non-supermarket entities.
“New owners can’t just discard workers, some of whom may have worked for years at the store, in an effort to lower wages. The bill also protects our communities by maintaining experienced staff that understand proper sanitation procedures and can maintain health standards. It’s a common sense approach to bring some stability for workers, consumers and businesses. We thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member I. Daneek Miller for their leadership and the City Council for supporting this important piece of legislation,” Appelbaum added.