President Brian String to Retire After 39 Years in UFCW

UFCW Local 152 staff at the 2024 UFCW Convention

UFCW Local 152 staff at the 2024 UFCW Convention in Las Vegas.

As seen in the Unity: Winter 2024. See past copies of the Unity here.

UFCW Local 152 President Brian String, who has served as leader of the union since its inception in 2005, will retire on April 1.

Executive Assistant to the President Dan Ross, Jr., will succeed String as the next president of Local 152.

String’s vision for a best-in-class union after the merger of Locals 56 and 1358 was realized through a commitment to organizing and a members-first philosophy that resulted in a loyal, motivated membership and a series of successes over two decades.

“I’m grateful and lucky I was able to do what I did,” String said. “Not many people can say they were able to serve others for a living. My responsibility to our members was always my top priority.

“To be able to walk into a processing plant or a supermarket or a nursing home, to look those members in the eye and know I’ve earned their trust — that’s what our union is all about.”


A union legacy

His leadership steered the young local’s health and welfare fund out of bankruptcy and into the thriving benefit fund it is today, providing industry-leading benefits to members at low and sometimes no cost, an extremely rare occurrence in today’s reality of soaring healthcare costs.

Under his guidance, Local 152 expanded through tireless organizing efforts into one of the most diverse UFCW unions in the country, with members in grocery, manufacturing, health care, public sector, trucking, sanitation, and other industries. His belief that cannabis workers deserve the protections of a union contract has led to a fast-growing Cannabis Division in recent years.

“The people I hired were rock stars in my book,” String said. “They had faith in our principles, they had the same philosophy and work ethic, and we were able to do things together that were previously only dreamt of.”

String’s steadfast commitment to providing excellent service to members helped Local 152 weather the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, devising new ways to connect with members, address their needs, and keep them safe on the job with protective equipment.

His work over the years to cultivate relationships with pro-worker candidates and legislators was critical in the early days of the pandemic as he was able to work quickly with local and state governments to pass essential worker legislation to protect members.

Local 152 emerged from the pandemic with renewed strength, negotiating best-ever contracts across industries and redoubling organizing efforts to best position the union for the years ahead.

“There’s a whole new generation of workers that have different issues, different problems, and a different outlook,” String said. “We’re building a huge safety net for these members. I’m glad I was able to help with that and I’m excited for the next phase of the union.”


An enduring vision

String started in the industry as a 14-year-old cart boy for Food Town in 1981. Along the way, he worked as a clerk for Pathmark and Acme, as an organizer for the UFCW International Union at drives in Atlantic City and California, and as a student at the George Meany Labor Center in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Inspired by his father, Irv String, a veteran at A&P stores who became a UFCW union president, Brian served as the organizing director and negotiations director for Local 1358. He was president of Local 1358 when he was chosen to lead the newly formed Local 152 in 2005, following the merger of Locals 1358 and 56.

“My continuing education after high school was as an organizer,” String said. “Standing alongside nurses in Seattle and poultry plant and supermarket workers in Fresno — it was so rewarding. I’m forever grateful my father gave me the opportunity to make that choice; I made the right one.

“Now, my own son is working for the union and he’s guided by the same values instilled by me and his grandfather.”

Incoming Local 152 President Dan Ross, Jr. said he is inspired by String’s leadership throughout the years.

“He’s ‘members first’ — period,” Ross said. “All the initiatives the local has put into place under his leadership have focused on advancing the interests of our membership.

“Brian will be remembered as an advocate, always, for our members as well as a confident, strategic negotiator with the willingness to face a good fight when needed.”

String has full confidence that the union is in capable and competent hands with Ross and praises his calm demeanor and abilities as an organizer and negotiator.

“I would let him bargain my contract any day of the week,” he said. “He will make a tremendous leader and his time is now.

“Local 152 is in great hands. The torch will keep burning and will be brighter than ever under Dan’s leadership.”