The old adage is “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Director of Field Services Joe Stathius, who retires at the end of April 2022, certainly worked hard throughout his career — but the spirit of the quote rings true.
“I was always able to find a job I liked going to,” he said. “When I was cutting meat for Acme Markets, I didn’t mind going to work. I had fun and raised three kids. Then with the union, it was the same thing,” he continued. “I felt like I was helping people, and that was important to me. I never regretted doing any of it.”
When Joe started in the grocery industry in 1975 at the age of 18, it was in the mailroom at Acme Markets’ offices in Philadelphia. Shortly after, he became a meat apprentice and started to learn his way around the meat department.
“I loved it from the first day,” he said. “Back then we had hanging beef that we had to break down. It was interesting and it kept me in shape.”
Joe worked as a journeyman meat cutter and then as a meat manager for 20 years at several Acme locations across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When he started, he didn’t set out with the goal of finding a union job, but it soon became clear he had made the right choice. During his time as a meat cutter and meat manager, he also volunteered as a shop steward.
“I helped with scheduling and making sure things were fair,” he said. “I always enjoyed it and I made sure to attend all of the union meetings so I knew what was going on.”
Before starting as a Union Representative at UFCW Local 152, he spent six weeks in Columbus, Ohio as a Special Projects Union Representative (S.P.U.R.) for the UFCW International during the final weeks of the 2008 presidential race, assisting the campaign of President Barack Obama.
As a Union Representative, he made it a priority to attend as many meetings as possible to support members to the best of his ability.
“I was able to get a lot of people their jobs back,” he said. “They were appreciative, and they still thank me to this day. It’s important work. I felt like I was making some unjust things just.”
In the two years leading up to his retirement, Joe has worked as the Director of Field Services, overseeing roughly six other union representatives.
As far as advice, the one thing he wants to encourage young members to do as often as possible is attend union meetings. “It deepens your understanding not only of what is happening at your union, but of your own job and your place in the industry,” he said.
In retirement, Joe’s hoping to spend more time with his wife, Donna, at their home on the Jersey Shore. He’s also looking forward to traveling, including a European trip this summer.
He kept putting off retirement because he liked his job and the people he worked with so much.
“I’m going to miss them the most,” he said. “When I was young, I always said I was going to retire as soon as possible, which was when I turned 49. But then I said, well, I’ll wait until I’m 55, then 62…,” he laughed.