Stop & Shop Union Staff On Strike Across The Region
“Sorry ma’am, we’re closed.”
Stop & Shop staff members state-wide went on strike as of 1 pm Thursday afternoon, April 11. Repeating the phrase as shoppers approached the Stop & Shop entrance at 228 South Main Street in Newtown on Thursday afternoon, store employees let the public know their complaints. Employees in Newtown are part of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 371 AFL-CIO and UFCW Local 919.
According to customer service representatives reached by phone around 2:30 Thursday afternoon, however, the South Main store remained open. The service departments were not available, The Newtown Bee was told.
A call to Stop & Shop consumer affairs reached one operator who offered to take “feedback” when asked for information on the strike.
Corporate “does not have a statement or information” on the strike, said a woman who identified herself only as Angela. As to whether or not Stop & Shop is preparing a statement, the woman said “That has not been shared. But they are working on talking points,” which could soon be made available to the public.
Wallingford resident and Newtown store staff member Michael Theise was among a group of picketers carrying signs saying “On Strike Against Stop & Shop” and “Unfair Labor Practices.”
Health care, pension and “they don’t want to give raises” are among the main issues of those picketing, Mr Theise said. Noting that the Stop & Shop corporation makes a large profit, Mr Thiese added that the company “now doesn’t want to give us anything. It’s corporate greed.”
He knows of employees “who have been here for more than 40 years. I earned my pension and I don’t think Stop & Shop should mess with it.”
The problems are a statewide issue, Mr Theise said. Staff works holidays and weekends.
“Someone has to man the stores,” he said.
The union’s three-year work contract expired on February 24.
“We’ve been bargaining” since January 8, Mr Theise said. The strike this week is “what it’s come to.”
Picketers in Newtown on Thursday were handing out flyers with the message: “Tell Stop & Shop: Cuts to Workers Are Cuts to Us All.” The flyers also state: “We want to make sure that every Stop & Shop customer hears and knows the truth: Stop & Shop’s plans will have a terrible effect on 31,000 hard working employees and the customer service they are able to provide.”
Mr Theise said that the company employs roughly 31,000 people in the state.
“We want a fair deal,” the flyer states.
“Every day, all across New England,” employees work hard, and “Stop & Shop executives are demanding unreasonable wage and benefit cuts,” as stated on the flyer. “Join us today. Text “customer” to 698329.
On the corporation's website, Stop & Shop Labor Communications, Negotiations Key Facts, it is noted that "Stop & Shop is the only large fully-unionized food retailer left in New England. Our labor costs are having a major impact on the company’s ability to compete in a fundamentally changing market."
The site compares itself with similar supermarket chains, and states that “Full-time Stop & Shop union associates in New England are among the highest paid in the industry.”
Mr Theise thought that unions in neighboring states could also soon strike.
The Associated Press is reporting that workers at Stop & Shop supermarkets across Connecticut, as well as Rhode Island and Massachusetts, had indeed walked off their jobs today. More than 31,000 employees reportedly authorized union leaders to call for the strike, also according to AP.