|Stop & Shop Unions Authorize Strike |
|Staff Reports, |
02:34PM / Monday, March 11, 2019
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The union local representing some 2,000 area Stop & Shop workers voted Sunday afternoon to authorize a strike.
Members of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1459 unanimously endorsed the strike authorization at a meeting in Chicopee in response to the grocery chain's latest offer that includes reductions in wages and benefits.
Local 1459's vote is in accord with four other UFCW locals that together represent some 30,000 workers in the grocery chain's New England stores. Union representatives are expected to continue talks with the company over the next two days.
Stop & Shop employees have been working without a contract since Feb. 23, when the previous three-year contract expired.
In a video message on Friday, Local 1459 President Tyrone Housey said union representatives had "soundly rejected" the latest offers by the grocer.
"This company has an ideology and believe that because they're the only fully unionized grocery store that you should be taking less," he said. "We believe in fair wages, fair benefits. We want a fair deal ... for current employees and future employees."
Stop & Shop, owned by Dutch multinational Ahold Delhaize, has countered that labor costs are having a "major impact" on the company's ability to compete in the changing market. National competitors like Walmart, Costco and Whole Foods/Amazon — non-union stores — have lower costs and access to lower prices, according to a press release put out by the company.
The grocer also claims that full-time associates at Stop & Shop average $21.30 an hour in Massachusetts and that its proposal offers continued competitive wages and that "no one's pay would be cut."
The union is objecting to changing the pension to a 401(k) it feels doesn't cover current future beneficiaries; Sunday premiums rather than time and a half (the company says the premium would be equal to time and a half for "current" employees); reductions in sick time and vacation time for future workers; and changes in health care contributions. Workers are also objecting to a rise in prepackaged meats over deli and butcher; the introduction of self-scan positions, carousels and Marty — a self-propelled robot that scours the aisles looking for spills and obstructions.
The authorization of a strike does not mean one will happen. A strike authorization was also approved about six years ago but workers have not walked in 30 years. Local 1459 respresents workers at the Stop & Shop on State Road and the stores on Dan Fox Drive and Merrill Road in Pittsfield.