Goldberg has family message for striking Stop & Shop workers

  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker hands a pen to State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg after he signed a bill into law at the State House, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Boston. AP PHOTO/Elise Amendola

State House News Service
Published: 4/18/2019 8:18:39 AM

BOSTON — Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, whose family founded Stop & Shop as a single grocery store in Boston’s North End, will attend a rally with striking workers in Dorchester on Thursday where she says she will deliver a message from her parents who treated the company’s workers like family.

“When we ran Stop & Shop we viewed it as America’s version of socialism in the sense that we wanted the company to grow to employ people to provide middle-class lives,” Goldberg told the hosts of Bloomberg’s “Bay State Business.”

Goldberg, who in January began her second term as state treasurer, said she plans to join striking workers at a rally at South Bay Center in Dorchester on Thursday afternoon where former Vice President and likely Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is expected to attend.

“I will actually be bringing a message from my parents who are 89 and 88 years old,” she said.

Goldberg’s comments on the radio Wednesday were her most extensive yet since Stop & Shop union employees walked off the job last Thursday. She previously wrote an op-ed in the Telegram and Gazette of Worcester in March defending the vote to authorize a strike, and has attended rallies with workers prior to the action.

Union workers have accused management of seeking concessions that would “drastically increase out-of-pocket health care costs, kick approximately 1,000 employees’ spouses off of their health care plan and make it more challenging” for employees to provide for their families.

The company has said it has offered to pay at least 92 percent of health premiums for family coverage and at least 88 percent for individual coverage. Spouses would be eligible for coverage unless their own employer offers a plan.

Goldberg’s family has had no involvement with the grocery chain since 1988 when it was taken private and later sold to a global Dutch food retailer Ahold Delhaize, but the treasurer said that if she had inherited the company as she once thought she would, the situation would be different today.

Goldberg said her family welcomed the United Food and Commercial Workers union, of which she was once a member, into the company, and offered fully-paid health coverage and pension benefits to workers. Even when there were labor disputes, Goldberg said management and union workers would shake hands at the end of the day and “go out for a beer.”

Though she acknowledged that benefits, like health insurance, are not as generous at most companies today as they were decades ago, Goldberg said employees should not be asked “to do give-backs.”

“Yes, it is correct that a lot of people are in that situation today, but the reality is that wasn’t what Stop & Shop was and if I was still there it wouldn’t be that way,” Goldberg said.

She also said that despite her use of the word socialism, she does not consider herself to be a Democratic socialist, like Bernie Sanders.

“I’m not a socialist,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg’s tough stance against the company today stands in contrast to her initial reaction in February when the UFCW voted to authorize a strike.

“I don’t even know about it ... I couldn’t speculate. I mean, we haven’t been there since 1988 ... over 30 years,” she told the News Service at the time.

The Stop & Shop strike has drawn dozens of state Democratic political leaders to stores throughout the state to show their solidarity with workers, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren who joined workers on the picket line in Somerville last Friday.

About 31,000 Stop & Shop workers represented by several UFCW locals in New England have been on strike since last Thursday after months of contract talks and in protest of proposed cuts to worker health care, wages and retirement benefits.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is also expected to join Biden at the rally Thursday.

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