On April 11, 2019 began the first Stop and Shop strike in 31 years. (1) Though the 1988 strike only lasted 12 hours, the 2019 strike has been going on for 10 days as of Sunday, April 21. Within the completely unionized company, the supermarket strike had been looming days before it was announced to commence. Not including the neighboring businesses, 240 Stop and Shop stores and their 31,000 employees in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are most affected by the movement. Stores like the Big Y and Shaws have been on the opposite side of the spectrum with increased sales. "'It’s been a godsend for Big Y,’ said UConn Economy Professor Fred Carstensen. ‘Milford’s store is up 139 percent, and they are $1 million above projections this week in Manchester. They are working hard to capture those customers.’" (4)
On April 12, WCVB 5 reported, “They say the Stop and Shop stores will be open amid a strike in more than 30 years. Hours can be modified or will be modified at many stores. Union employees walked off the job yesterday afternoon. They’ve been locked in a labor standoff two months now. The Union says the main sticking points are cuts to health care, retirement benefits, and Sunday premium pay. The company maintains they are offering pay raises and pensions contributions and claim their health care costs are competitive and striking workers aren’t convinced.”
On their website, the Union informed the workers of the most recent update, reported on April 20, 2019. “At this writing, we are still here in Providence at the bargaining table. We want to make you aware that while some progress in these talks can finally be reported, this in no way means that we have a deal yet. There are several items still being discussed which have been present ever since negotiations commenced. Your Company has made it perfectly clear that they wish to decrease many standards and benefits for not only future employees but for current ones as well.”
But what is actually going on? “The workers, represented by UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445 and 1459 in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, have been bargaining with the company since January and remain miles apart. Ahold Delhaize [the Dutch retail company who owns Stop and Shop and similar brands] has refused to back down from demands for drastic cuts in employee health coverage and take-home pay." (3) The Boston Globe reported that, “The $2 to $4 annual increase in weekly health care costs for employees would still keep workers’ costs below the national average, the company said. Stop & Shop has also proposed limiting coverage for spouses who can get health insurance from their own employer.” The biggest concern for employees is the rise in health care price and the cutting of benefits.
Former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, visited the Dorchester store on April 18. Biden said, “How can they make that money, buy back all that stock, and then tell you they’re going to cut your wages; they’re going to cut overtime; they’re going to cut your medical benefits,” Biden said. “How in God’s name does that match anything?” (5)
On the morning of Monday, April 22, Stop and Shop employees returned to work, having reached an agreement with the company which meets their demands. (6)