Jackie Kozody has worked at the Long Island City Pathmark for 14 years.
She would like to continue to do so, but said she and her coworkers have been on edge since December when A&P, or the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., filed for bankruptcy.
A&P owns 15 supermarkets in Queens under the Pathmark and Waldbaum’s brands, and a total of 58 in New York City under various names including 16 Food Emporium stores in Manhattan.
Kozody manages customer service, cashiers, bookkeepers and customer complaints in a store with more than 100 employees.
“The fear is not having a job, that at any moment the store could close,” she said, “that at any moment the store is going under or being sold to someone we don’t know. There’s a lot of tension, worrying about how we would make ends meet or standing in the unemployment line.”
Chapter 11 bankruptcy rules allow A&P, the 151-year-old grocery chain, to be protected from its creditors while it reorganizes under a new management team.
Published reports said four Pathmarks in the region, including one on Nostrand Ave. in Brooklyn, were targeted for closure.
Marcy Connor, senior director for the Montvale, NJ company, issued a statement last week saying the company still has a way to go.
“While the company has made significant progress in its restructuring effort, it needs to achieve substantial cost savings in order to successfully emerge from Chapter 11 and be competitive for the long term,” she said. Connor added that labor costs are critical to completing A&P’s turnaround.
“And that is why we have entered into negotiations with the labor unions that represent our associates,” she said.
She declined further comment, saying it is not company policy to comment on “rumors or specific details of negotiations with our labor partners.”
Joe Fedele of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 said his rank and file are not unmindful of how tough things have been.
“We would just like a fair deal,” Fedele said. “We’re willing to chip in but not give in totally. Just a fair deal where we and the company can succeed in the interest of both parties. A deal that’s honest.”
Kozody and Fedele said much of the trouble came from the old management team which had issues at stores like insufficient stock for sale items.
“Those are management issues that we have no control over,” Kozody said. Both indicated that many grocery chains have suffered when not being managed by grocery professionals.
“And if a store closes, the people on the bottom can’t go to Rite Aid and say ‘Let me run your company’ and move on to the next one,” she said. “We’re stuck.”
She said long-term employees are what brings back customers to a neighborhood store for reasons other than convenience.
“You form relationships,” she said.
Union spokesman Stu Miller said you don’t get that from larger store.
“Say you have certain dietary needs and you want to talk to somebody about fat content, or other issues,” he said. “In a big box store they’ll tell you ‘Aisle 5. Good luck.’”
Tracy Smith, shopping at a Pathmark on Northern Boulevard in Astoria on Tuesday agreed.
“I only come here because I work in Queens, but I shop in Pathmark in the Bronx a lot,” she said. “I like the service. I hope they don’t close.”