Stop & Shop Strike Enters Day Five; Contract Negotiation Talks Continue
Beginning their fifth day on strike on Monday, April 15, were UFCW Local 919 and UFCW Local 371 AFL-CIO union members — Stop & Shop employees caught in the tangle of failed contract negotiations.
“They are speaking, they are having talks that are ‘fruitful,’” said Wallingford resident and Newtown store staff member Michael Theise, noting the union’s word for communication between union representatives and their employer. He was among a group of picketers carrying signs saying, “On Strike Against Stop & Shop” and “Unfair Labor Practices,” since the strike began at 1 pm on Thursday, April 11.
According to stopandshop.com, “The current, three-year contracts with the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island expired on February 23, 2019.” Formal negotiations between Stop & Shop and the five UFCW Locals began January 14, 2019.
Posting a “Negotiation Update,” on its site, it was noted “Negotiations on new contracts for Stop & Shop’s 31,000 associates in New England continued today with the support of federal mediators. Discussions are scheduled to continue on Monday, April 15.”
Picketers were hopeful Monday morning, again saying that the “sticking points” with the contracts include health benefits, what the new hires are or are not being offered, and Sunday pay, Mr Theise said.
Stepping from the larger group of those on strike with Mr Theise was John Rinaldi of Wolcott, who has been with the company for 45 years. “This is a big week,” he said. He senses that as Easter approaches this Sunday, negotiations will see a resolution.
The men agreed that people stopping by the store have been supportive. “People are understanding,” he said. Shoppers have dropped off food and other items to the strikers.
A People’s Bank location within the store and the pharmacy are among reasons residents continue to shop at the 228 South Main Street location. However, Mr Theise said, “People are honoring our line.” His group is positioned outside the main entrance, along the sidewalk.
Neither he nor Mr Rinaldi felt the company would go out of business due to the strike.
The mood among those on strike was “great,” Mr Theise said Monday, as staff members were able “to get to know each other and were not under pressures from work. I think we’ll be a better group after this.”
The two coworkers confirmed that the union had asked employees to put in regular shifts on strike, “but getting people has not been a problem,” Mr Theise said. The staff has also been getting to know customers as people approach to find out “what’s going on,” Mr Theise said.
He and Mr Rinaldi mentioned a statement from Sunday night on the Stop & Shop website.
Stop & Shop’s current offer includes:
“Wage increases for all associates: This would be among the best UFCW retail contracts in the country, and there would be no changes to Sunday time-and-a-half premiums for full-time associates. Current part-time associates would keep their current Sunday premium wages.
Healthcare benefits at below market costs: Health plan deductibles — which are well below average — would not change — and associates’ share of healthcare premiums would increase only $2 (for individuals) to $4 (for families) per week in each year of the contract.
Retirement benefits: Pension benefits for all associates would continue. Company pension fund contributions would increase — at no cost to associates.
Paid time off: No changes in paid time off or holidays for current associates.
The wages and benefits we provide for our full-time employees — across all of our stores — are among the best among New England supermarkets — and pay and benefits for part-time associates are very competitive. This contract offer is no exception.”
According to an earlier statement on April 11, “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. Stop & Shop has contingency plans in place to minimize disruption.
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