Stop & Shop union workers to vote on strike

  • The Stop & Shop at 89 French King Highway in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

By Staff Writer
Published: 3/8/2019 12:12:02 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Amid stalled contract negotiations, western Massachusetts Stop & Shop workers will be voting on Sunday to either ratify a new contract or to authorize a strike.

The company has proposed a reduction in health and welfare pension plans and cuts to holiday pay, among other benefits, according to a press release from United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1459. The local union represents 17 stores with more than a thousand Stop & Shop workers, according to Dean Ethier, secretary and treasurer of UFCW Local 1459.

“The company is not bringing back anything to the bargaining table that we feel is in the best interest of our members,” Ethier said.

A strike authorization does not necessarily mean there will be a strike. Rather, it means the union leaders have the power to call a strike.

While workers have been without a contract since Feb. 23 and their previous contract, negotiated three years ago, still holds, according to Ethier. The contract with five local unions has been under negotiation for almost two months, and each group takes a separate vote for strike authorization. Two of the local unions have voted to authorize a strike, UFCW Local 1445 in the Boston area and UFCW Local 371 in Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

“Full-time Stop & Shop associates are among the highest paid food retail workers in the region, and we are working hard to reach strong new contracts that will continue to provide Stop & Shop associates with competitive wages and affordable health care for eligible associates,” said a statement on Stop & Shop’s website.

“We don’t like the direction the company is going in as far as their pre-packaged meat, their self-scans, their carousals and now Marty the Robot is infiltrating its way into New England stores,” Tyrone Housey, president of UFCW Local 1459, said in a video posted on the union’s website last week.

Negotiations are ongoing, Ethier said on Friday morning.

“As of today they are still at the table,” he said. “There’s not much movement at all.”

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