2023 Food & Drug Conference Summary

The 2023 Food & Drug Conference brought together innovators and service leaders for a full day of industry updates, networking opportunities and professional inspiration.

FDC Director Ellen Anreder opened the conference with thoughts on gratitude and making the most of the time each of us is given, even during challenging circumstances.

“Before I go to sleep each night, I think about or write down three things that I’m grateful for from that day,” Anreder told the FDC attendees at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

“It wasn’t long after I started doing this that I began proactively looking for the positives in life. This simple practice transformed my perspective.”

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life,” she continued. “Sometimes squeezing the gratitude out of despair makes it more rich and textured and deeply felt.”

A panel on “Innovative Approaches to Combating Soaring Health Care Costs,” moderated by UFCW 8-Golden State President Jacques Loveall, featured key leaders from Solidaritus Health: President Mark Blum, Chief Growth Officer Jen Chen, Director of Facilities Catherine Christian and Chief Medical Officer Suzanne Gehl, MD.

The panelists discussed Solidaritus Health’s unique new approach to health care, which not only provides improved care for patients but also lowers the cost of services and generates revenue which can be reinvested to continually improve this Labor-based health care model.

“When we designed high-value primary care with Solidaritus, after studying the best in the marketplace, we had an additional requirement,” Blum said. “We had to create value for shareholders, and those shareholders need to be Labor itself. It is owned and governed by Labor Unions.”

Union members and their families have access to “concierge health care” at Solidaritus Health centers at no additional cost. That type of care is usually available only to those who can afford to spend multiple thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

“You are on the cutting edge of a revolution in health care,” President Loveall told the panelists and praised their individual contributions to the success of Solidaritus Health.

UFCW 8-Golden State Secretary-Treasurer Kirk Vogt moderated a panel on “Negotiations, Organizing and Member Servicing.” It featured Deana Abondolo, president of UFCW Local 342; Jim McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99; and Brian String, president of UFCW Local 152, who discussed the importance of organizing new workers and the need for Union representatives to establish personal bonds with members at their workplaces.

“This generation of employees wants to join a Union, but they also want to be part of a movement,” President Abondolo said, commenting on the challenges and opportunities presented by the current surge of interest in Unions among young workers.

“When the employees want to organize, they’re doing it from within, so we try to join in their efforts and guide them throughout. Then, during that process, they realize they need the help of a larger, established Labor organization.”

“UFCW has always been the best at servicing,” President String said, highlighting the union’s recent track record in representing workers in the cannabis industry, but stressed the need for organizing to continue to be the top priority.

“The greatest time in my career was when I was an organizer,” he said. “That’s when you’re on the cusp of really helping people reap the benefits of union membership.”

President McLaughlin detailed how the additional challenges Local 99 faces organizing workers in a “right to work” state helps them improve their overall member servicing.

“Because the workers in our state get to choose whether or not they want to be a union member, we always let them know we’re there with them,” he said. “It requires a lot of boots on the ground and people in the stores.”

The “Legislation and Politics” panel, moderated by UFCW Western States Council Executive Director Amber Baur, explored ways to educate Union members about how political engagement has the potential to improve their lives at work.

Panelists Joe Duffle, president of UFCW Local 1167; Dan Pedersen, president of UFCW Local 876; Mark Ramos, president of UFCW Local 1428; and Rena Wong, president of UFCW Local 663, described how their work in the political space has benefited their Unions and how to make that initial connection to members who may be skeptical about political activism.

“The personal is political,” Wong said. “Sometimes we overcomplicate things by talking about all of these policies, but people just want to make a livable wage and take care of their families. Our members want to feel safe at work and have a sense of wellbeing.”

President Duffle expanded on the need for the union to have a deep connection with its members both at their workplace and where they live.

“When your union is healthy and those relationships are healthy, then your community is healthy” he said. “When people in your community are making money and can provide for their families and have a good living, our communities will thrive.”

President Pedersen talked about the strength of his union’s Active Ballot Club, how it has enabled them to make a difference in legislation at the local level and how it will make an impact in ensuring a labor-friendly president wins the 2024 presidential election.

“We’ll do what we always do in Michigan,” he said. “We’re going to outwork our opponent, outraise them, door-knocking, phone calls — whatever we need to do to ensure the best outcome.”

President Ramos talked about the value of bringing union members to meet with legislators directly so they can see what is at stake with labor-related legislation and industry consolidation.

“I bought my home and raised my family working in a grocery store,” he said. “I want the same ability for my members and my kids, and that is slipping away because of consolidation in the food industry.”

Keynote speaker Marilyn Sherman, an award-winning presenter and author, engaged the audience with her presentation on “Communication for Results: From Conflict to Cooperation.” She encouraged the FDC audience to “get a front row seat in life.”

“My message today is to help you have more front row relationships, front row leadership, front row impact, by working on one skill: communicating more effectively, especially with difficult people,” Sherman said.

Audience members smiled and laughed as they went hands-on with Sherman’s tips for creating better relationships with their friends, family and coworkers.

The Food & Drug Conference will return to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2024.

2023 Food & Drug Conference Summary

The 2023 Food & Drug Conference brought together innovators and service leaders for a full day of industry updates, networking opportunities and professional inspiration.

FDC Director Ellen Anreder opened the conference with thoughts on gratitude and making the most of the time each of us is given, even during challenging circumstances.

“Before I go to sleep each night, I think about or write down three things that I’m grateful for from that day,” Anreder told the FDC attendees at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

“It wasn’t long after I started doing this that I began proactively looking for the positives in life. This simple practice transformed my perspective.”

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life,” she continued. “Sometimes squeezing the gratitude out of despair makes it more rich and textured and deeply felt.”

A panel on “Innovative Approaches to Combating Soaring Health Care Costs,” moderated by UFCW 8-Golden State President Jacques Loveall, featured key leaders from Solidaritus Health: President Mark Blum, Chief Growth Officer Jen Chen, Director of Facilities Catherine Christian and Chief Medical Officer Suzanne Gehl, MD.

The panelists discussed Solidaritus Health’s unique new approach to health care, which not only provides improved care for patients but also lowers the cost of services and generates revenue which can be reinvested to continually improve this Labor-based health care model.

“When we designed high-value primary care with Solidaritus, after studying the best in the marketplace, we had an additional requirement,” Blum said. “We had to create value for shareholders, and those shareholders need to be Labor itself. It is owned and governed by Labor Unions.”

Union members and their families have access to “concierge health care” at Solidaritus Health centers at no additional cost. That type of care is usually available only to those who can afford to spend multiple thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

“You are on the cutting edge of a revolution in health care,” President Loveall told the panelists and praised their individual contributions to the success of Solidaritus Health.

UFCW 8-Golden State Secretary-Treasurer Kirk Vogt moderated a panel on “Negotiations, Organizing and Member Servicing.” It featured Deana Abondolo, president of UFCW Local 342; Jim McLaughlin, president of UFCW Local 99; and Brian String, president of UFCW Local 152, who discussed the importance of organizing new workers and the need for Union representatives to establish personal bonds with members at their workplaces.

“This generation of employees wants to join a Union, but they also want to be part of a movement,” President Abondolo said, commenting on the challenges and opportunities presented by the current surge of interest in Unions among young workers.

“When the employees want to organize, they’re doing it from within, so we try to join in their efforts and guide them throughout. Then, during that process, they realize they need the help of a larger, established Labor organization.”

“UFCW has always been the best at servicing,” President String said, highlighting the union’s recent track record in representing workers in the cannabis industry, but stressed the need for organizing to continue to be the top priority.

“The greatest time in my career was when I was an organizer,” he said. “That’s when you’re on the cusp of really helping people reap the benefits of union membership.”

President McLaughlin detailed how the additional challenges Local 99 faces organizing workers in a “right to work” state helps them improve their overall member servicing.

“Because the workers in our state get to choose whether or not they want to be a union member, we always let them know we’re there with them,” he said. “It requires a lot of boots on the ground and people in the stores.”

The “Legislation and Politics” panel, moderated by UFCW Western States Council Executive Director Amber Baur, explored ways to educate Union members about how political engagement has the potential to improve their lives at work.

Panelists Joe Duffle, president of UFCW Local 1167; Dan Pedersen, president of UFCW Local 876; Mark Ramos, president of UFCW Local 1428; and Rena Wong, president of UFCW Local 663, described how their work in the political space has benefited their Unions and how to make that initial connection to members who may be skeptical about political activism.

“The personal is political,” Wong said. “Sometimes we overcomplicate things by talking about all of these policies, but people just want to make a livable wage and take care of their families. Our members want to feel safe at work and have a sense of wellbeing.”

President Duffle expanded on the need for the union to have a deep connection with its members both at their workplace and where they live.

“When your union is healthy and those relationships are healthy, then your community is healthy” he said. “When people in your community are making money and can provide for their families and have a good living, our communities will thrive.”

President Pedersen talked about the strength of his union’s Active Ballot Club, how it has enabled them to make a difference in legislation at the local level and how it will make an impact in ensuring a labor-friendly president wins the 2024 presidential election.

“We’ll do what we always do in Michigan,” he said. “We’re going to outwork our opponent, outraise them, door-knocking, phone calls — whatever we need to do to ensure the best outcome.”

President Ramos talked about the value of bringing union members to meet with legislators directly so they can see what is at stake with labor-related legislation and industry consolidation.

“I bought my home and raised my family working in a grocery store,” he said. “I want the same ability for my members and my kids, and that is slipping away because of consolidation in the food industry.”

Keynote speaker Marilyn Sherman, an award-winning presenter and author, engaged the audience with her presentation on “Communication for Results: From Conflict to Cooperation.” She encouraged the FDC audience to “get a front row seat in life.”

“My message today is to help you have more front row relationships, front row leadership, front row impact, by working on one skill: communicating more effectively, especially with difficult people,” Sherman said.

Audience members smiled and laughed as they went hands-on with Sherman’s tips for creating better relationships with their friends, family and coworkers.

The Food & Drug Conference will return to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Dec. 9, 2024.

Memorable Moments from
the 2023 Food & Drug Conference