Local 152 Secretary-Treasurer Anthony Benigno, who retires at the end of April 2022, is proud of his contribution to the Labor Movement as he looks back over his career.
“At home I had learned about how the union works,” said Benigno, whose father worked in the meat and seafood industry, “so when it was time to look for a job I looked for a union job.”
He started in the industry in 1977 as a retail clerk at Acme Markets in Broomall, PA. A few years later, he moved to the meat department.
In the meat department, he was in charge of kickstarting a new phase of the company’s seafood offerings, since he had experience working at his father’s seafood business as a teenager.
“Acme was trying to break through with personalized service in the seafood department,” he recalled. “I liked doing that with the customers — having that one-on-one time.
“Once they made a selection, I would say hey, you could bake it this way, broil it this way — give them some ideas about how to prepare what they were purchasing.”
He continued to climb the ranks at Acme, taking on the roles of seafood manager, deli manager, and area trainer before becoming a specialist, which involves overseeing the deli, seafood, and bakery departments across several stores in a territory.
His knowledge of multiple aspects of the grocery industry caught the eye of UFCW Local 56 and he was brought on board as a union representative in 1997. He still receives well wishes from people he helped in that role during countless grievance and disciplinary meetings.
“I had the desire to help people,” he said. “I wanted to help those who couldn’t speak up for themselves.”
After the merger to create Local 152, Benigno was elected Secretary-Treasurer in 2006, overseeing the new union’s finances and monitoring expenses.
Among his many accomplishments, as a Trustee of the Health & Welfare Fund, he helped bring the union’s fund out of crippling debt and transform it into a thriving fund with millions in surplus available to help members. He credits Local 152 President Brian String with putting a successful plan in place and executing it perfectly.
“Brian’s leadership and the team he built up were what made us succeed,” he said. “He has progressive ideas and he’s always willing to accept new ideas to make us a stronger union.”
It was rewarding to serve as Secretary-Treasurer, where his duties involved keeping the union’s finances healthy and guiding the organization into the future, he said.
“We were able to deliver for the members,” he said. “It makes you feel like everything you were struggling for over the years was accomplished.”
Benigno started to think about retirement a few years back, but a series of recent hardships, including his mother’s death and a prostate cancer diagnosis — both within the span of a month in late 2020 — accelerated the process.
“I knew it was time to reevaluate things,” he said. “When you start to take a look back it’s like — boom! — where did those 45 years go? But I realized it was time to retire and enjoy life.”
Following surgery and his recovery throughout 2021, he has been cancer-free for several months.
In retirement, he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Cindy, and his two children Anthony, Jr. & Dominica. In addition to some traveling and spending more time on the beach near his home in Cape May, N.J., he also enjoys many forms of landscaping around his house.
“The only downside is, as you get a little older the aches and pains kick in,” he said. “So I focus on trimming the trees and shrubbery and the aspects I like best.”
He will miss most the staff at Local 152, which he considers family. He has also enjoyed seeing the membership become more and more engaged with the union over the years, taking on new roles and getting a better understanding of what the union does to improve members’ lives.
“The bottom line is, we have to stick together,” he said. “Stay strong, support the union and get involved. When we have a large percentage of the membership active with the union, it sends a powerful message.”