SOMERVILLE, Mass. - Stop & Shop workers across New England walked off the job Thursday due to ongoing contract negotiations and continue to strike.
UFCW Locals, the union representing 31,000 Stop & Shop workers in New England have been negotiating a new contract with representatives since mid-February.
The fight centers on health insurance, pensions and vacation time.
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Stop & Shop says it has offered proposals that "would ensure full-time associates continue to be among the highest paid food retail workers in the region."
The union, on the other hand, says Stop & Shop is looking to "degrade the quality of life" of workers.
One of the workers in Somerville, Michael Stuart, said he gave his coworkers the order to strike.
"Yeah, it wasn't easy. I had to go and tell all of my coworkers 'it's time to go' [and] they were looking at me like I had three heads,” Stuart said.
Every worker on strike has a core issue. For Micheal Sheehan, it's just about fairness.
"Just a fair contract, making sure we keep our jobs...really that's what I care about," he said.
Karen Ryan, another Stop & Shop worker in Somerville, joined the chorus of fellow union workers, admitting that walking out on management is not easy.
"We got the word that we're going to stand strong and stand united, we're going to fight for everything that they want to take back from us which is basically wages, medical benefits, the vacations, the sick time,” Ryan said. "I's very difficult to walk out on the store itself and the management teams in the stores, but it’s not difficult to walk out on the corporate."
Customers across Massachusetts are reporting that their stores are closed and they have been kicked out. And the customers that are able to go inside are limited to self check-out.
While the union stands firm in their fight for better benefits and wages, they are anticipating the strike won't go on for too much longer.
"They've got a lot of product in the stores rotting. Lots of stuff in the warehouses for Easter," said one of the workers. "Let's just hope they come to an agreement today or tomorrow."
Just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, workers on strike were moved to the side entrance and then to the street to lessen the distruption of businesses.
From the front door to the sidewalk, Stop&Shop union workers are still @ it after walking out at 1:15 this afternoon. They were moved to RT 28 & Blakeley Ave after about 2 1/2 hours of demonstrating @ the front entrance of Somerville’s @StopandShop .@boston25 story @ 6 pic.twitter.com/hKHXLHAOnF— Evan White (@EvanWhiteIII) April 11, 2019
Boston 25 News received the following statement from Stop & Shop:
"Given that negotiations with assistance of the federal mediators are continuing, we are disappointed that the UFCW chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores. Stop & Shop has contingency plans in place to minimize disruption.
Stop & Shop has proposed a good and reasonable offer to our union locals that includes:
• Across-the-board pay increases for all associates – no one’s pay would be cut;
• Continued “Gold Level” health care benefits for eligible associates – at a fraction of what employees at other retail companies pay and with no changes to already unusually low deductibles; and
• Increased company contributions to the UFCW’s defined benefit pension fund for current full- and vested part-time associates – a rare benefit in the New England food retail industry.
Additionally, this morning the company made several suggestions to the federal mediators to encourage further bargaining. The mediators gave those proposals to the Locals late in the morning. The Locals provided no counter proposals to the mediators and simply stated they were proceeding with their plans.
In contrast to the company’s proposal which is better than most recent UFCW contract settlements and responsive to heavy non-union competition, the unions proposed a contract that would increase the company’s costs. This would make our company less competitive in the mostly non-union New England food retail marketplace.
Stop & Shop remains ready and available to meet with the union locals at any time. We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible that both recognize and reward the great work of our associates and enable Stop & Shop to compete effectively in the rapidly changing New England grocery market."
This is a developing story. Refresh this page for updates.
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