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A&P/Pathmark backlash over Christmas Day openings

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 12/21/2011, 6:17 p.m.

A&P and Pathmark grocery stores will be open on Christmas Day, and while it might sound convenient for shoppers, employees and union leaders aren't feeling the holiday spirit over the idea.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 is protesting the decision by A&P/Pathmark to open their stores on Christmas Day. The union cited the stress the company's employees are facing as the company goes through bankruptcy and urged, "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 will handbill company stores this week, urging the public to contact A&P/Pathmark management and express their disapproval. Employees who work on Christmas Day will not get overtime, according to the union.

"Now is no time for A&P/Pathmark management to play the role of the Grinch," said union Secretary Treasurer Anthony Speelman. "Their employees have suffered through store closings, uncertainty and lost wages."

In a letter, the union said that its members have sacrificed enough to help assist A&P/Pathmark in its ongoing bankruptcy and that they have been on an "emotional roller coaster" with rumors of store closures and layoffs. They say that the company's current state of bankruptcy is its own fault and should not be taken out on employees.

"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. Even the Grinch would be shocked by A&P/Pathmark's decision and would question if they had any heart at all," Speelman said.

This holiday season, several retailers, especially big box stores, have been the target of criticism for staying open during hours that should be spent with family. At the top of the holiday shopping season, many stores, including Target, Toys "R" Us and Walmart were open on Thanksgiving Day.

Basing their request on different grounds, the union also sent a letter to Gristedes asking that they remain closed. Supermarkets such as Stop and Shop, King Kullen, Shop Rite and several others have agreed to remain closed on Christmas Day.

Working on Christmas Day is voluntary for its employees, A&P/Pathmark said. The company operates close to 20 stores in the five boroughs, mostly Pathmarks, with some that are open 24 hours.

"A&P is committed to being the store of the neighborhood and serving the needs of our diverse customer base," the company said in a statement. "Therefore, we have made the decision to open some of our store locations with limited hours on Christmas Day."

Most stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Christmas Day. However, one of the two Harlem Pathmark stores reported that they would not be open, citing that not enough workers had volunteered to show up.