- Stop & Shop locations across Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were forced to close Thursday afternoon after workers walked out in protest.
- Thirty-one thousand employees at more than 240 stores went on strike in response to Stop & Shop’s proposed contract, which the United Food & Commercial Workers union says would cut healthcare benefits and pensions.
- Stop & Shop defended its wages and benefits and said it needed to cut labour costs to compete with nonunionized grocery chains such as Whole Foods, Costco, and Walmart.
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Stop & Shop workers went on strike Thursday, protesting cuts on healthcare and pension benefits.
Thirty-one thousand employees of the Ahold Delhaize-owned regional grocery chain who are members of the United Food & Commercial Workers union walked out of their stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut on Thursday afternoon.
Workers at more than 240 locations left stores about 1 p.m., with some then picketing outside. Many stores – lacking employees – closed for a portion of the afternoon. The strike continued into Friday, but most of the stores reopened Friday morning with temporary replacement workers, a Stop & Shop representative told Business Insider.
“Given that negotiations with assistance of the federal mediators are continuing, we are disappointed that the UFCW chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores,” the retailer said in a statement. “Stop & Shop has contingency plans in place to minimise disruption.”
According to the UFCW, Stop & Shop’s proposed contract would increase healthcare premiums by hundreds of dollars, with full-time employees paying an estimated $US893 over three years, and reduce monthly pension benefits for many newly hired employees.
“Instead of a contract that recognises the value and hard work that our members provide every day, Stop & Shop has only proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts to healthcare benefits and take-home pay while replacing real customer service with more serve-yourself checkout machines,” representatives of the local UFCW unions said in a statement.
Some social-media users described shopping at Stop & Shop as the strike kicked off Thursday.
“Stop and Shop called their strike when I was in the middle of shopping… so I ditched my cart and left. Take care of your people and you’ll get my money,” one person tweeted.
“Just walked into Stop and Shop and the PA system goes ‘Everybody out we are officially on strike’ and all the employees legit just left. FIGHT THE POWER BABY,” another tweeted.
The UFCW and Stop & Shop reached a stalemate while negotiating a new contract in recent months, with employees working without a contract since late February. The strike affects all Stop & Shop locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as the UFCW represents the brand’s 31,000 workers in New England. Stop & Shop is fully unionized, a rarity in the American grocery business.
“The men and women who make Stop & Shop a success have earned and deserve affordable healthcare, a good wage, and the ability to retire with dignity,” local unions said in a statement.
Stop & Shop said in a statement that its employees had some of the highest wages and best benefits in the grocery industry. The company said it needed to cut costs because most rival grocery chains in the New England area, such as Walmart, Costco, and Whole Foods, were not unionized and had lower labour costs.
“Stop & Shop is the only large fully-unionized food retailer left in New England,” the company said in a statement on its website. “Our labour costs are having a major impact on the company’s ability to compete in a fundamentally changing market.”
Numerous politicians spoke out in support of UFCW and Stop & Shop workers on Thursday.
“[email protected], a multibillion-dollar company, wants to drastically cut health care for 31,000 workers. I stand with @UFCW workers in their fight to protect health care and workers’ rights,” Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont tweeted.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted: “31k New England @StopandShop workers just went on strike for a contract that provides fair wages, good benefits, & a secure retirement. I stand in solidarity with @UFCW for these hard-working families to be treated with the dignity & respect they deserve.”
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