Stop & Shop workers strike

UNIONIZED STOP & Shop workers went on strike Thursday. / COURTESY RK CENTERS
UNIONIZED STOP & Shop workers went on strike Thursday. / COURTESY RK CENTERS

PROVIDENCE – Unionized Stop & Shop workers went on strike Thursday.

United Food & Commercial Workers Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445 and 1459 members cited Stop & Shop’s parent company reporting net income of $2 billion in 2018 as a counter to the company’s claim that it needs to cut labor costs.

The union workers on strike are seeking a new contract with pension protections. In addition, they say they hope to maintain health and welfare benefits and “innovative wage rates.” There are more than 31,000 unionized workers working at Stop & Shop in New England.

The two parties have been negotiating since January.

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In a letter to union members, union leaders said that the supermarket company had negotiated “in bad faith.”

Stop & Shop was not immediately available for comment on the strike, but had previously released a summary of its offerings in negotiations.

The company said that it is the only large-unionized food retailer in New England and that that hinders its ability to compete with major national retailers running non-unionized stores. The company also claimed that its workers were among the highest paid in the region.

The company also said in a statement that contrary to a union assertion otherwise, that wage cuts have never been proposed, saying that all associates at its store would receive a pay raise per the most recent round of negotiations.

The most recent letter from union management to members said that the union was seeking wages that kept pace with regional cost-of-living increases and a plan that maintains pension contributions. The union also said the company is trying to “dramatically” reduce benefits, including pension benefits for new employees, and more expensive health care premiums.

The company said that as part of its negotiations, it is trying to modernize its benefits package, but remains committed to a defined-benefit pension.

“Our 31,000 members who work at Stop & Shop work incredibly hard to provide the great customer service that has made the company billions of dollars in profit and the top grocery store in New England,” union members said in a joint statement Thursday. “Instead of a contract that recognizes the value and hard work that our members provide every day, Stop & Shop has only proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts to health care benefits and take-home pay, while replacing real customer service with more serve-yourself checkout machines.”