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Stop & Shop workers strike across New England

By Mod Behrens

Stop & Shop strikers.

Northampton, MA – On Friday night, April 12, over 20 Stop & Shop employees were gathered outside the King Street store for the second day of a strike called by United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) at stores across New England. Currently there are over 31,000 UFCW workers protesting proposed cuts to health care, take home pay and customer service.

According to the UFCW, “The proposed cuts by Stop & Shop, whose parent company earned $2 billion in profits in 2018, would devastate health care benefits, significantly increase health care costs, and decrease take home pay. Stop & Shop’s proposed cuts would also have a negative and severe impact on customer service, including the very cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks, and butchers that Stop & Shop customers rely on.”

Employees and supporters stood in front of the main doors at sundown with signs reading, “Stop & Shop: Do what’s right” and “Unfair labor practice: Strike!”

Solidarity with the strike spread quickly, as the usually packed parking lot was almost empty. Potential customers were turning away one by one as the workers explained their situation.

Earlier in the day, one woman stood in solidarity at the picket line with a sign offering to drive people to the nearby Big Y for those unable to access another grocer by foot. Community members brought food and coffee to the picket line throughout the day.

“They’ve already started bringing scabs in through the warehouse,” a woman union member said. But in this same warehouse, trucks from Peapod (a non-union grocery service owned by Stop & Shop) have been sitting full for 24 hours while there are no experienced workers to unload the trucks.

A union cashier who is 18 and still in high school full time, explained that she works 30 hours per week at minimum wage ($12 per hour) to raise money to attend college without a scholarship. She and others expressed frustration at corporate management’s decision to cut hours for employees, to the dismay of customers who had to face longer lines and slower service.

“Despite being understaffed, all the work is done by us,” she said. “They paid $30,000 to put new robots in the store and all they do is alert us to spills in the aisle, but there are no spills. We’ve already cleaned them up. It was a waste of money that came from our paychecks.”

Lisa Rogers, another union cashier at the King Street location, complained that management says the workers are “overpaid.” “I’ve been here 18-and-a-half years and I make $14 an hour,” she said.

“Our hours have been so cut back that we have long lines, customers complain. But they’re the only hours we’re allowed to have.” She explained that sick time too has been cut, and unused time no longer rolls over or is paid back but instead disappears at the end of each year.

“We don’t want to be out here, we’d rather be in there working,” one union member, Shelby, said. “This is about fair wages, healthcare, benefits, the pensions they’re trying to cut. It’s not just affecting the people who’ve been here for ten or 20-plus years. It’s affecting everybody who’s going to be hired in the future. So the next generation, when they’re trying to get their first job, we’re fighting for them too.”

Teamsters Local 404 in Western Massachusetts and Northampton Firefighters Local 108 are supporting the striking workers. The strike is ongoing and solidarity is growing.

#NorthhamptonMA #PeoplesStruggles #UFCW #Strikes #StopShop #NewEngland