Stop & Shop workers go on strike

Rebecca Tauber

New England Stop & Shop workers went on strike on Thursday after months of tense negotiations with the grocery chain. Five United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) chapters, representing 31,000 workers in the area, organized the strike. UFCW Local 1459, one of those five chapters, represents workers in Western Massachusetts. 

Workers’ issues with Stop & Shop and its proposals include the chain’s plans to “reduce holiday + Sunday pay for part-timers, bonus instead of wage increases, unlawfully withhold info from the union bargaining, reduce number of sick days for new hires, raise healthcare premiums by up to 90 percent” and more, according to a Facebook post from the Support Stop & Shop Workers page that explained why workers at the grocery chain were striking.

Stop & Shop released a negotiations update on Sunday, reiterating information about its final offer that was released last week. “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,” the release said. “This contract offer is no exception.” The company listed wage increases, health care benefits, retirement benefits and paid time off as some of the features of the offer.

The workers, however, insist that the offer does not reflect large profits and tax cuts of Stop & Shop and its parent company, Ahold Delhaize. “The company is claiming the proposed cuts are necessary but is unlawfully refusing to provide financial information to verify that claim,” a letter to UFCW Local 1459 members said on the chapter’s website.

The UFCW locals have released a petition aimed at company president Mark McGowan and a call for support from other unions and community members. In the days following the walk-out, workers, wearing signs that read “Stop & Shop employees on strike, please respect our picket line!” have formed a picket line outside stores to encourage buyers to refrain from shopping at Stop & Shop.

Students at the College have also made efforts to support Stop & Shop workers, standing on the picket line at North Adams location and encouraging shoppers to go to Big Y or Wild Oats instead. Students have also sold brownies to raise money for the strike fund and created a group chat to organize carpools to the picket line.

“Everybody who might ordinarily go to Stop & Shop can play a part by refusing to cross the picket line; in fact, this is crucial to the success of the strike,” said Kyle Walker ’19, a student involved in efforts to support the workers. “As Williams students, we have an opportunity here to stand in solidarity with community members. Every single person who joins can make a difference!”

Negotiations continued on Monday; meanwhile, the North Adams Stop & Shop has remained open from 8 a.m.–8 p.m., but only with self-checkout. “We’re going to continue to be on strike until we reach an agreement, a fair and equitable agreement for our members,” UFCW Local 1459 president Tyrone Housey said in a video posted on the chapter Facebook page.