Veterans Day is a time to pay tribute to the service and sacrifices of all US military veterans. But acknowledging what these amazing men and women have done for our country is not enough. We must do more.
To truly honor our veterans, Veterans Day must be a time to strengthen our commitment to providing our veterans with “good jobs” with better wages and benefits that can support a family and provide a pathway to the middle class.
The harsh reality today is that too many workers –– including too many of our veterans in New York –– are a facing serious obstacles to finding these good jobs. Unlike their parents and grandparents who served in the military and returned home to a time of shared prosperity, today’s veterans are returning to a country that is grappling with a wealth gap not seen since the “Roaring Twenties,” where good manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas, wages are stagnant, and the middle class is shrinking at an alarming rate. More troubling, irresponsible companies like Walmart talk proudly about their programs for veterans, but fail to provide wages or opportunities necessary to build a better life.
The simple truth is this: We can and must do better, and our union family is committed to standing up for our veterans and their families.
In New York, UFCW Local 1500 represents 22,500 of hard-working men and women at Gristedes, Stop & Shop, Key Food, Fairway, ShopRite, and D’Agostinos, and many of our members are veterans. Whether it is the veteran at Fairway Market or Stop & Shop, we work hard to provide the better wages and benefits that all hard-working men and women have earned and deserve.
Nationally, for example, being a member of our union family provides veterans and non-veterans 27 percent more in pay than non-union workers. They are more likely to have paid sick leave and a pension plan, which means they have more control over their lives today and in the future. And, we stand and fight against discrimination and unsafe workplace conditions veterans and others face that are often ignored by non-union companies.
Despite their dedication, experience and skills, too many of our country’s veterans are paying the price as companies continue to cut wages, hours and benefits, and punish those who speak out and try to better their lives. This should not be the reality for any worker, but it especially should not be the reality for our veterans.
So our challenge to employers all across New York is this: Stand up with us and do more for our veterans. Commit to not only hiring more veterans, but provide them and all retail workers with better wages and benefits.
The best way to honor our veterans on this solemn day is to provide them with an opportunity to earn a better life. That is the least our New York employers can do.
Bruce W. Both is the president of UFCW Local 1500 in Westbury, New York.