Local 342 Questions Stop and Shop Practices
• Loriann Cody
Local Union 342, the United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union, is questioning the Dutch-based parent company to Giant and Stop and Shop, Ahold USA’s commitment to the customer. With the recent switch to prepackaged meat in some of their stores, the closing of the New Hyde Park Peapod facility, and the misleading labels on their meat packages, Ahold USA is lending credence to the Union’s concerns.
There are three Stop and Shops in our local area, Oyster Bay, Woodbury and Glen Cove. Of the three stores, only the Forest Avenue Glen Cove store is still employing meat cutters. The other two stores have their beef shipped in, daily, from the Vantage meat-processing plant located in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Though this move may improve the bottom line of Ahold USA, it does not appear to be in the best interest of the customer.
Several customers commented on the lower quality and shelf-life of the beef. The beef is shipped in pillow packs that are gas-sealed to increase the shelf life; the typical retail gas mixture is 70% oxygen, 30% carbon dioxide. Once opened, the meat should be used within one to three days.
Though there is a two year old state-of-the-art meat-processing plant located in Hicksville (AVA Companies), Ahold USA contracted with the Pennsylvania plant for its metro-area stores instead. According to the Union 342 representative, Ahold USA agreed to use AVA in Hicksville to process their meat, but at the last hour, moved the meat processing to the Camp Hill, PA plant. This resulted in a loss of 32 local meat-cutting jobs.
In another related issue, Ahold USA has had problems with their meat labeling system. Back in October, beef packages at some of their stores were labeled simply ‘USDA Graded.’ This misleading label goes to the heart of the meat grading system, and it is something the US Food and Drug Administration takes very seriously. Though ‘USDA Graded’ label is technically accurate, as most of the beef sold in supermarkets is graded, it doesn’t tell what grade the beef actually is.
The beef grading system primarily indicates the amount, regularity and quality of marbling, or fat interspersed within the beef. Prime is the best quality, with the most abundant fat marbling, but it is also rarely available at the supermarket because it is most often bought at the wholesale level by restaurants. Choice is the next level, and a great alternative to prime, and it is commonly available at stores. Select is the next tier and still good, but is a leaner cut with less flavor and juiciness. Standard and commercial grade are still leaner and often sold without a label. Utility, Cutter and Canner grades are the lowest levels but are not usually sold at supermarkets. Unless labeled as Choice, or Select, store-brand beef is often Standard or Commercial grade.
Customers complained about the ambiguous beef labels, and Ahold USA was ordered to stop with the vague labels. Ahold acknowledged the new labels were part of a brand rollout marketing idea, and apologized for any confusion the customer may have had about the quality of the meat. On Saturday, it was noted that in the Oyster Bay store, Stop and Shop had correctly labeled the beef.
Back in July, Stop and Shop announced the closing of the Peapod facility in New Hyde Park, opting instead to move the order fulfillment operation to a center in Jersey City. Peapod is Stop and Shop’s online delivery service. The move affected 162 Long Island jobs, mostly drivers and clerks. In a written statement, Ahold said the company would attempt to move a majority of jobs to other locations.
Local 342 is urging customers to continue to shop at local Stop and Shop stores, just frequent one of the stores that continues to employ meat cutters. In our readership area, that would be the Forest Avenue Glen Cove location. If your local Stop and Shop is one of the affected stores and want your meat cut fresh in the store, you can call Stop and Shop
headquarters at 1-800-767-7772 and complain. For a listing of the
Long Island stores affected by the move to pre-packed meat, you can visit
Local 342’s Facebook page at: facebook.com/ufcw342
As of press time, calls to Ahold USA for comment had not been returned.
Matthew Fetzer Turkey Trot
Despite the chilly weather in Bayville last Saturday, the turnout for the sixth annual Matthew’s 5k Turkey Trot, and the 1k Chicken Run, was a success. Over 250 runners of all ages braved the cold to participate in the run. Although all who participate are considered winners in the eyes of the community, first place for the Turkey Trot went to Charles Hollmuller of Bayville. The Children’s Chicken run was proudly won by Daniella Kata and Dexter Hunt. Congratulations to all the winners, your community is proud of you.
The Matthew Fetzer Foundation was started by Matthew’s parents to carry out a wish their son had, to give every child in the hospital a toy at Christmas time. The fund- raiser helps the Foundation purchase toys. The Fetzer family, along with volunteers, delivers the toys to children in the hospital, fulfilling Matthew's wish. Matthew's father told a story of one little boy who stands out in their minds, as well as their hearts. The child was sick, and had been in bed for three weeks. When they entered the room with toys to give, the boy jumped to his feet and said, “Do you have a toy for my brother at home.” A selfless moment as the boy thought of his brother instead of himself. A wonderful reminder for many of us who get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our every day lives.
Many of the runners also took the time and registered through “Penelope’s Odyssey,” to donate bone marrow. Penelope’s Odyssey was started in Sea Cliff by the parents of Penelope Ruderman. In 2003, Penelope was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of three. A bone marrow transplant saved her life. Her foundation is partnered with DKMS Americas, the largest bone marrow donor center in the world.
Thanks to the generosity of many local merchants who donated food and water, all participants were treated to hot chocolate, hot Butternut squash soup, bagels, fruit, and water after the race.
Yodeling All the Way
The Tour du Mont Blanc (Part One of A Series)
• LC Colgate
After a busy summer with our children leaving sopping wet towels in heaping piles atop newly decorated sofas, the laundry machine whirling at all hours, hordes of hungry teenagers raiding the refrigerator at midnight and a parade of their friends sleeping over, our house became eerily quiet as I, gulp, officially became an empty nester.
According to the Mayo Clinic, empty nest syndrome is really and truly a legitimate disease for which there is no official remedy. Their website says, “research suggests that parents dealing with this malady experience a profound sense of loss that might make them vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts.” Identity crisis? Alcohol abuse? Depression? None of those ailments sounded very appealing, and so last spring I began to prepare for the inevitability, not wanting to suffer any sort of mental breakdown that would require Mommy’s Little Helpers. Knowing that the day was coming (for me it literally loomed “out there” like the Biblical story of the four horsemen and the divine apocalypse) and that after nineteen years I would be without my kids, I decided to be proactive and find an adventure that would preoccupy me and ward off the specter of being put out to pasture.
As a good friend from Boston and I contemplated a few journeys including summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, climbing to Everest base camp or canoeing down rapidly flowing rivers in Canada, we finally found what presented itself as the trip of a lifetime. And so, after putting away the pool toys once and for all, we set off on The Tour du Mont Blanc.
Known as the most popular walk in Europe, the tour (TMB) is a hike in which one circumnavigates Mont Blanc, the largest peak in Western Europe, standing tall at nearly 16,000 feet. Also known as the Monarch of the Alps, it is dazzling and commanding with a regal presence that is both magnificent and statuesque. The TMB, which takes about ten days, covers nearly 100 miles while trekking through parts of Switzerland, France and Italy. Offering exquisite mountain scenery that is at times hard to define because of its stupendous beauty, the TMB is a physically demanding hike that can be accomplished on just your two feet (meaning no ropes required).
For the next several weeks, portions of my journal from the TMB will be re-printed for Leader readers.
Day One. As our flight began its descent into Geneva, I awoke to the aroma of freshly baked croissants (the Swiss certainly know how to make tasty airplane food) and Nespresso, a strong and highly fragrant coffee. It has a soft texture, like melted marshmallows and is very satisfying. My seatmate had taken a sleeping pill and after sloshing it down with two glasses of wine, slept with his mouth wide open the entire night. His tonsils honked at full throttle, so sadly, I did not have the same luxurious slumber. I fantasized about delivering him a knuckle sandwich or removing his highly functioning adenoids without anesthesia. Thankfully, we had a partition between us and so our only communication was hello upon take off, good night after dinner and ciao as we disembarked onto Swiss soil. At customs, I was able to speak enough elementary school French to squeak out “Dix jours en Chamonix,” and anxiously chewed on my finger as the gendarme eyeballed me with indifferent curiosity. Worried, I thought that perhaps I had actually said, “the drugs are in my suitcase.”
We met our group of fourteen strong in the efficient, yet dull as dishwater Geneva airport and we’re an assortment of Americans, all relatively the same age but from different states, backgrounds and cultures. There was a husband and wife dental team from Minneapolis, an anesthesiologist and nurse from Massachusetts, a pharmaceutical executive and his wife who hailed from New Jersey, a retired Idahoan schoolteacher and her extremely fit husband (who was almost twenty years older than me), several who served our country in the armed forces, an acerbic but ferociously independent lawyer from Washington, and my friend, Julie, from Boston. Our outfitter, REI Adventures even sent a designate from the “executive office” but in the spirit of true Seattle grunge, he did not look anything like the corner-office corporate titans that we New Yorkers are familiar with when hearing the word executive. Heavily tattooed (which at first was very intimidating to me), he sported a thick red beard and when wearing his hoodie, looked remarkably like the Unabomber. And yet, with a glimmer in his eye, this hiking business honcho was a master storyteller who regaled us over our ten-day journey together.
After retrieving our luggage and realizing with great embarrassment that my suitcase was the heaviest, a chug-a-luga bus transported us up to Chamonix, which is right over the border in France. The drive was lovely. Through our jet-lagged eyes that were propped open with toothpicks we saw verdant foothills leading to the perennially snow-capped Alps that are so jagged they look like they will pierce the sky. Upon arrival in the fairy-tale village of Chamonix, a mecca for hikers and tourists, we took a telepherique (gondola ride) to the top of Le Brevent and that offered us some of the finest panorama views of Mont Blanc and her sister peaks. Shirtless workmen with Gladiator strength and dazzling back muscles were tethered to lines that looked as thin as dental floss. They dangled precariously over steep crevasses, servicing the tram equipment that transported us up to the summit.
Our three Alpine guides, hailing from the Netherlands, France and Spain met us with comforting smiles and halos of confidence. Our lead wrangler Wam is a handsome young man who studied sports psychology at Oregon State College and is fluent in many languages. Gazing at him nervously, I think to myself that he may well need that psychology degree to motivate and haul my well-upholstered, middle-aged sack of bones body up one hundred miles of mountain. We were pleased that Javier, the logistics and all-important food manager from Spain, knew our dietetic idiosyncrasies (he had studied the pre-trip questionnaires) and we batted our lashes at Monsieur Jan Pierre, the quintessential swashbuckling ski instructor, thrice married, mountain bike expert and trail aficionado. After a leisurely dinner where we all apprehensively checked each other out (think speed dating) we trudged off to bed, anxious for the big day ahead.
(Next Installment: Powering Through)