Workers across the Greater Boston region took to the picket lines on Friday, April 12, to fight a continued contract battle against Stop & Shop – and workers were out in force at the Everett/Chelsea location as well.
Most workers at the local store asked shoppers to consider using another store, standing with strike signs to the side of the doors to the store.
Some 31,000 unionized grocery store employees were included in the strike, with many from the local store being Everett residents.
The main contention of the demands by workers includes a fair wage, affordable/accessible health care and a reliable retirement plan.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said on Tuesday afternoon that they are still negotiating with the company.
“Stop & Shop can buy as many ads as they want, but they can’t change the facts,” they said in a statement late Tuesday. “Stop & Shop’s latest proposal will 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 31,000 people to provide for themselves and their families. If the company’s most recent offer becomes a reality, every working family, neighborhood, consumer, and community will be hurt. We are amazed at the ever-increasing community support and appreciate all that New England is doing to help us fight for better jobs and better health care.”
The struggle began earlier this year when the union contract was about to expire in February, with the Union threatening a strike. On Feb. 23, the contract did expire and the Union authorized a strike. The union local representing Everett’s store is UFCW 1445.
“Stop & Shop has known for the past three years that our contract was set to expire on February 23,” read a statement from the union presidents in February. “But because of their continued corporate greed throughout these negotiations, Stop & Shop employees and customers now find themselves in a position where job actions may take place.”
While federal mediation was taking place in the time from that strike authorization to now, talks did break down recently – prompting the strike action.
Local officials made visits to the front lines over the weekend.
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said Stop & Shop, and its parent company Royal Ahold, should treat the workers with dignity and respect.
“Once again, we have another corporate giant who refuses to treat it’s employees with dignity and respect,” said DiDomenico. “I have been a frequent shopper at Stop &Shop and I will no longer step foot in any of their stores until they come to a resolution with the union workers and provide them a fair contract. I am proud to support Stop & Shop workers in their fight for fair wages, affordable health care, and a dependable retirement, and I will continue to stand with them in this fight and urge everyone to respect their picket line.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he stood with workers at the Everett store, and noted his own twin brother works for Stop & Shop and is also on strike.
“This is both personal and professional for me,” he said. “My twin brother working for Stop & Shop since he was 14 has allowed me to see the dedication and sacrifices he and other employees have made. I know 31,000 workers are dedicated to their job and didn’t want to strike, but they had to in order to get a living wage. I hope this billion dollar company will come back to the bargaining table so they can get a resolution as soon as possible, and shoppers can continue to get the same level of service they have had in the past. I have stood, and will continue to stand, with the workers on the picket line until this is resolved.”
Stop & Shop officials said that negotiations are continuing with the UFCW union locals, again with the support of federal mediators.
The company has said they have been very generous in their contract offer to the UFCW union.
On health care, they indicated they have agreed to pay 92 percent of heath premiums for family coverage and 88 percent for individuals. Th company said that is much more than other large retailers – citing that the federal government pays 72 percent and other employers average between 70 and 80 percent. Additionally, the offer includes no changes to the deductibles, and small increases to co-pays.
The company said it is also offering a defined benefit pension plan that pays between $1,926 and $2,644 annually per associate. In the new contract, the company said it has agreed to increase contributions to pension funds.
Also, they added that the paid time off has not changed and continues to be 10 to 12 paid holidays per year.