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How Pathmark and A&P stole Christmas

 by Kasey Schefflin-Emrich, Chronicle Contributor

The fictional character of the Grinch is appearing in the form of a real-life supermarket chain, according to New York State’s largest grocery workers union.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 is protesting the decision by A&P/Pathmark to open its stores on Christmas Day, calling the move Grinch-like.

In a letter to company executives, union leaders cited the retailer’s ongoing financial difficulties with its bankruptcy filing and urged “that as this very difficult year draws to a close, now more than ever we should respect and welcome a day off for reflection and uninterrupted time with friends and family.”

The union expressed how the company’s decision to remain open, while other supermarkets such as Stop and Shop, King Kullen, and Shop Rite have agreed to close that day, shows a lack of caring for its employees.

“Now is no time for A&P/Pathmark management to play the role of the Grinch,” said Anthony Speelman, the secretary treasurer of the Westbury-based union representing 23,000 grocery workers in Long Island, the five boroughs, Westchester, Putnam and Duchess counties. “Their employees have suffered through store closings, uncertainty and lost wages. Asking our members to work on Christmas Day shows a stunning lack of compassion and another example of this ‘War on Christmas’ we seem to read about each day.”

Speelman thinks the action is even worse than anything the protagonist in the popular Dr. Seuss children’s book would do.

“Even the Grinch would be shocked by A&P/Pathmarks’ decision and would question if they had any heart at all,” Speelman said.

Many of the customers shopping at the Pathmark on Atlantic Avenue in Ozone Park, echoed the same sentiment.

“It’s very bad especially for employees with kids who have to run to work and back home,” said Gloria Froelach, a former employee at Pathmark 13 years ago. She was surprised the store was open on Christmas, noting that when she worked there they had the day off.

Yohanny Hernandez, a frequent shopper at the store, thinks the employees should be able to spend time with their loved ones on the holiday.

“They should be allowed to enjoy time with their family,” he said. “Without a doubt it should be closed.”

A person that is no stranger to retail, Meagan Harding, expressed her disappoinment with the store remaining open.

“It’s not right,” said Harding, who has worked at Daffy’s, a designer discount store, for three years. “It’s a waste of electricity and people’s time.”

A&P/Pathmark doesn’t feel this way.

According to a company statement, it “is committed to being the store of the neighborhood and serving the needs of our diverse customer base. Therefore, we have made the decision to open some of our store locations with limited hours on Christmas Day. The company plans to staff the stores with associates who wish to earn additional income by volunteering to work on December 25th.”

STATEMENT BY UFCW INTERNATIONAL UNION PRESIDENT JOE HANSEN ON A&P

Washington — The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represents 54,000 A&P employees nationwide and nearly 29,000 Pathmark workers.

UFCW-represented employees at both companies have helped these two vital regional chains maintain strong market share, serve customers and communities.

The UFCW will continue to represent our members at both companies and enforce all union contract provisions while any possible transactions take place.

Should Pathmark decide to sell the company to A&P, the UFCW anticipates that all contracts would remain in effect.