When Edna Inge started her career in the grocery industry as a meat wrapper at Acme Markets in 1978, she felt frustrated that the part-time position was limited to 20 hours a week. Over the years she picked up more and more shifts, to the point where she sometimes worked more than 50 hours in a week.
“Whenever they needed help on a Sunday, they would call Edna,” she recalled.
Inge volunteered to train new workers as Acme opened new stores across the Northeast and also work as a “rover,” covering shifts for deli managers at several locations when they went on vacation, before returning to manage the deli department at her own store in Wrightstown, NJ.
“At the end of the day, the more you learn on the job, the more it can open up possibilities for you in the future,” she said. “That’s how you challenge yourself.”
Even with her busy schedule, she made a pledge to be active in her union. She took on the duties of shop steward — helping answer questions from her coworkers and educating them about their union contract — and attended every quarterly union meeting.
“I still don’t understand why more people don’t come to the union meetings,” she said. “I get it — after working and taking care of your family, when do you have the time? But it’s only four times each year. You have to know what’s going on.”
That perseverance and dedication continued into her role as a union representative for UFCW Local 152, a position she held until her retirement at the end of 2021 after 44 years in the labor movement. She also served on the executive board since the local’s inception in 2005. Previous to that, she served as a Special Projects Union Representative (SPUR) at UFCW Local 56.
As a union representative, Inge worked with healthcare workers for a short time before transitioning to grocery and manufacturing workers. She found that the experiences she amassed through working in different departments during her Acme career helped her serve the members.
“I enjoy helping people, so when workers got suspended or even fired, it was good to be able to help them using the knowledge I had gained,” she said.
“When I came up against a manager who maybe didn’t know how a situation could have happened and why the worker wasn’t at fault, I could explain it to them, work it out, and then that person could have another chance.”
In retirement, Inge looks forward to spending more time with her husband and grandchildren, as well as planning a trip to Europe to see family in Germany and visit the neighboring countries. Looking back on her career, she says she finds it rewarding to see the fruits of her hard work.
“Before I even started as a union representative, I had close to 30 years at Acme, so my husband asked, ‘Why take another job?’ I told him, ‘Because I like doing this.’
“I enjoy helping people,” she continued. “I enjoy working for the members and knowing that you’re making a difference for someone.”