Northampton Stop & Shop Workers Participate in Union Strike
Mikayla Patel ’22
Update: On April 21, Stop & Shop announced that the company had reached a tentative agreement with the workers; with that, the strike ended after 11 days.
On Thursday, April 11, workers at the Northampton Stop & Shop on King Street walked off the job as part of a union strike involving over 30,000 employees and spanning across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This strike comes after months of failed negotiation to reach a new contract between the union and company. Stop & Shop employees are represented by the larger United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. Many Stop & Shop stores across New England have been forced to close their doors due to a lack of working employees.
The official Facebook page for the union, “Support Stop & Shop Workers,” states the commitment of employees to “stand together for a contract that protects their health care, retirement funds and their ability to provide you with the very best in customer service.” They state that “Stop & Shop is proposing completely unreasonable and drastic cuts to our health care and pension while relying more on ‘serve yourself’ technology.”
A post featured on their page thanks all who have stood with them in their fight. The page explains the reasons behind employees’ dissatisfaction: “The company wants to increase healthcare premiums by up to 90% over the next three years while decreasing the monthly pension benefits by up to 72.2%.” They also add that Stop & Shop’s parent company “made $2 billion in profit last year,” suggesting that these cuts are not being made out of necessity. The union page also states that the company is proposing to eliminate holidays and personal days, despite having increased operating income by 13.4% last quarter.
Many customers across New England have been standing by Stop & Shop employees by refusing to shop at their local Stop & Shop stores until the corporation meets union demands, causing stores across the New England area to be noticeably barren throughout the past couple of days. A video on the “Support Stop & Shop Workers” Facebook page features a customer saying, “I will not be back to Stop & Shop to shop … justice should be served,” and an attached link to sign their petition.
Stop & Shop released a statement on April 11 in response to the strike that said, “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.” The company also says that it has offered “continued ‘good level’ health care benefits for eligible associates” 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.” They end their statement with, “We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible.”
In a further statement titled, “The Facts about Stop & Shop’s Offer for Fair New Contracts,” the company states that “Stop & Shop’s wage package would make this among the best UFCW retail contracts in the country” and that “associates’ shares of health care premiums would remain well below national averages and increase only $2.00 to $4.00 per week each year.” They also state that “company pension fund contributions would increase — at no cost to associates” and that their health plan deductibles “are already well below average.” This statement finishes with the company stating their commitment to “providing fair and competitive compensation for [their] associates AND great value and service for [their] customers.”
As of Friday, April 12, the Facebook page features a post with photos of Sen. Elizabeth Warren handing out donuts to picketers to show her support. Another post from day two of the strike says, “One good job should be enough for every hard working American.”
The strike will continue until a new contract that meets the demands of workers is reached.