Stop & Shop workers OK strike

  • Staff Photo/Domenic PoliThe Stop & Shop at 89 French King Highway in Greenfield.

Staff Writer
Published: 3/10/2019 11:43:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Unionized Stop & Shop employees are a step closer to striking after they voted unanimously on Sunday to authorize a strike against the supermarket chain.

The vote, by United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1459 members meeting in Chicopee, was driven by “drastic cuts in wages and benefits that led us to take the action that is necessary,” said Local 1459 President Tyrone Housey.

“We’ve done what we need to do to show (Stop & Shop) we’re serious,” Housey said. “Hopefully that strike authorization sends them a message, but if not, what will happen will happen.”

The decision does not mandate that a strike will take place, but gives union leaders the power to call a strike. At the local’s Sunday morning meeting, voters had the option to either authorize a strike or ratify a new contract.

Unionized workers at Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have been working without a contract since Feb. 23, according to a press release sent out by UFCW 1459 on Thursday. A strike could include 30,000 workers across the three states, Housey said.

Other UFCW locals also voted to authorize a strike Sunday.

The company has 17 stores in western Massachusetts.

In a statement sent to the Gazette, Stop & Shop spokeswoman Stefanie Shuman wrote that the company is “working hard to reach strong new contracts that will continue to provide highly competitive wages, comprehensive health care coverage and, unlike any other area food retailers, a defined benefit pension.”

“Stop & Shop has also committed up to $2 billion to upgrade our stores over the next several years to better serve our customers and communities as we also lower prices and expand opportunities for our associates,” she continued.

Shuman also wrote that full-time Stop & Shop associates “are among the industry’s highest paid,” and that the company is “the only large fully unionized supermarket remaining in New England.”

Housey said the union “doesn’t agree with the employer’s assessment of the workers being paid well,” adding that the union worked hard for many years to achieve better wages.

He also said that Stop & Shop is “not a company that’s poor by any means.”

“They’re making record profits, and it’s corporate greed, is what it is,” Housey said. “The workers should certainly share that success the company has had ”

Housey said customers have also been affected by the supermarket’s business decisions, “including its increase in spending for automation,” such as self-checkout and implementation of “Marty,” a googley-eyed robot that alerts customers and employees of hazards such as spills.

Fewer hours for employees have also had a negative impact on customers, Housey said, adding, “Our members are frustrated because they can’t service their customers because of the cuts in labor costs.”

Housey said it’s “hard to say” if the union will call a strike, adding that “it’s up to the company right now.”

Shuman wrote in Stop & Shop’s statement that the company is “proud of our relationship with associates and optimistic that we will be able to reach new agreements.”

Union and Stop & Shop officials will return to the bargaining table on Wednesday and Thursday.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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