- Stop & Shop employees who are members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1445 union have voted to authorize a strike in response to proposed increases in health care costs, elimination of time-and-a-half pay and changes to pensions, according to local news reports. UFCW Local 1445 represents nearly 10,000 Stop & Shop employees in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine.
- A three-year contract for the workers expired at midnight on Sunday, and UFCW Local 1445 along with other unions have been negotiating with Stop & Shop on a new contract for more than a month. Stop & Shop employees in the region have continued to work despite the expired contract. Negotiations are expected to continue this week. If talks fail, a strike is likely to follow, according to Boston’s local ABC affiliate.
- A spokesperson for Stop & Shop told Grocery Dive in an email that to the company's knowledge, no other UFCW chapters have scheduled meetings to vote on a strike authorization. The Local 1445 chapter is one of five UFCW chapters in New England representing about 30,000 employees in total.
Yesterday, nearly 1,000 members of UFCW Local 1445 gathered and unanimously voted to strike, according to a press release from the union shared with Grocery Dive. In a statement, Local 1445 President Jeff Bollen said that the concessions Stop & Shop seeks are a “slap in the face to our members, our communities and Stop & Shop customers." The press release said many of its members have given Stop & Shop more than 40 years of service.
In addition to concerns over rising health care costs for employees and possible changes in pensions, workers are upset because Stop & Shop wants to eliminate time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays since the state of Massachusetts has started phasing out a law that requires such pay.
Stop & Shop released a statement yesterday saying that the company is proud of its relationship with its associates and is committed to finding a resolution as quickly as possible.
“Full-time Stop & Shop associates are among the highest paid food retail workers in the region, and we are working hard to reach strong new contracts that will continue to provide Stop & Shop associates with competitive wages and affordable health care for eligible associates,” the statement said.
Stop & Shop's spokesperson confirmed to Grocery Dive that the company has not experienced any strikes in recent years.
If workers do decide to strike, it could put business in jeopardy, at least temporarily, for Stop & Shop locations throughout the Northeast — which is the last thing the grocer wants as it tries to win market share and improve its dwindling performance. The Ahold Delhaize banner has been underperforming recently but is investing heavily to refresh its stores, beginning with around two dozen locations in Hartford, Conn.
Stop & Shop said in its statement that it has committed up to $2 billion to upgrade stores in the coming years, and also plans to lower prices and expand opportunities for associates. Given Ahold Delhaize’s strong Q4 performance overall, workers appear to think that the company has the resources necessary to offer the benefits they want.
Employee strikes, or threats to strike, are a regular occurrence in the grocery industry — whether over benefits, personnel choices or unfair labor practices. Late last year, employees of Smith’s in New Mexico threatened a strike over labor practices and subpar benefits, putting 17 grocery stores’ business at risk. And while Whole Foods is not represented by a union, there has been ongoing talk among employees of attempts to unionize under Amazon to protest wages and working conditions. A few years ago, Market Basket employees went on strike for at least two weeks when their boss was fired.
UFCW is one of the largest grocery unions in operation, representing grocery employees from companies including Albertsons, Kroger, Shaw’s and Supervalu.