Few shoppers cross Stop & Shop pickets

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The air was stale. Produce bins were less than full, and the fruit looked tired. There were no green bananas.

The robot was parked in its station, its two pairs of green lights glowing. Checkout lanes were empty, but the lights were on at the Meadowbrook Stop & Stop location Monday morning and the manager was there to help if needed. The in-store Citizens Bank branch and the store pharmacy were also staffed and operating.

Outside, store employees with strike signs hanging from their necks gathered in groups to chat, sip coffee and wave enthusiastically when motorists on Warwick Avenue honked their horns.

This was the scene on the fifth day of the International United Food and Commercial Workers strike that has impacted more than 240 stores in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Overall, an estimated 31,000 full- and part-time employees are on strike.

There were no answers to be found on the picket line or from store management as to the status of talks or when the strike might come to a halt. Those questions were referred to corporate and union headquarters. Both sides reported negotiations were ongoing as of press time Monday.

Nonetheless, there was surprise that the strike has lasted this long and lots of speculation over the company’s intentions. There was also consensus that the strike hasn’t been good for anyone. Some of those picketing talked of lost wages and what the strike might mean to Stop & Shop on the eve of the traditionally heavy pre-Easter shopping period.

Union representatives listed wages, pensions and benefits as sticking points to a contract.

“We just want to keep what we have,” said one picketer outside the Meadowbrook store on Monday.

On Friday at the Greenwich Avenue store, union representative Rick Cappalli listed a number of issues, including corporate efforts to cut pensions for new employees and implement a maximum pay of $18 an hour regardless of tenure.

A spokeswoman for the International UFCW said the issues at hand are healthcare, retirement benefits and take-home pay. She said that proposed changes to healthcare and retirement benefits are making any marginal wage increases moot.

In an online message posted April 12 to associates, Stop & Shop president Mark McGowan said he and corporate leadership are committed to “getting a fair new contract in place for all our associates in New England.” He goes on to say, “Our offer provides pay increases for all associates, excellent health coverage with deductibles that would not change, increased contributions to the employee pension plans and no changes in paid time off or holidays for current associates.” Summary fact sheets are posted on the site.

“Importantly, the offer also maintains a responsible balance in rewarding our associates, protecting jobs and serving our customers in a dramatically changing, mostly non-union environment. Stop & Shop has been an industry and community leader for more than 100 years, and we have every intention of remaining so for many years to come,” McGowan writes.

(With reports from Ethan Hartley)

Comments

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John Stark

Strikers might want to be mindful that shoppers are, indeed, taking their business elsewhere. And they are discovering that their buying experience is far more pleasant. Many of these shoppers will never again set foot in Stop & Shop, and those that do can complete an entire grocery trip without interacting with a single store employee. Which begs the question: How many employees are really needed? I wish you folks luck. You'll need it.

Tuesday, April 16
Hepdog

The robots will soon take their menial jobs. Should be more worried about that

Tuesday, April 16
Patient Man

Private business, private union. Hopefully they find some common ground and a fair solution. At least both sides are represented by representatives that represent their constituents best interest.

Good luck

Tuesday, April 16
Mike02886

I'm not much of a Stop & Shop customer anymore. If you don't go thru the self check out lane you will be there forever. The self checkout always has an issue as well. My first job was with a supermarket as a cashier. I feel for the workers. As a union member I've been in their situation. Wish them the best of luck. Its It's not like the company isn't making money hand over first. They should have striked on the first of the month so Stop & Shop lost the welfare,wic and EBT money.

Wednesday, April 17
perky4175

these people want to much its the same no matter where u work if u dont like it leave most of the customer service is lousy there when they do go back to work the customers should boycott the stores plus people are saying they have worked there for 20 and 30 years it cant be that bad stop and shop should not give in to these people let them see how green the grass is on the other side

Wednesday, April 17
Cat

The employees are entitled to strike for better benefits. The employer is entitled to make money. The consumer is entitled to shop elsewhere. Both sides must be very careful in how they treat the customer because there are many other places to shop for food. Yelling, screaming, swearing and taking pictures of those that cross the picket lines will come back to bite you when there are not enough customers in the store to allow you to keep your job.

Wednesday, April 17
Patient Man

Mike 02886 wrote "It's not like the company isn't making money hand over first."

We don't know that, they might be, but I doubt it. S&S is a division of a much larger company. I haven't read anywhere that their P&L sheet is public. Grocery stores have notoriously low margins.

I'm no fan of S&S, they'll have no express lane open, 13 self check outs open and one manned register. They're not providing a crap customer experience because they're killing it. I pay more at Dave's but hate the cynical tact that S&S takes.

A final note, I drove by a S&S today and saw someone on the picket line wearing a hoodie & black face mask. Made me want to go shop at the store. Does the idiot think associating with the violent anarchist movement is the way to get public support? Anarchist by night, stock boy by day.

Wednesday, April 17
reo

stop and shop should close its doors get rid of the old employes and reopen under a new name look at the money these peoplecost them not to mention the wasted food if these people want the benifits there talking about then become a teacher

Thursday, April 18
BeaconCommenter

Beacon comment section rooting hard for multi-billion dollar corporations over working class people. Sounds about right.

Thursday, April 18
warwick10

Sad, but true, BeaconCommenter! Employees make or break business success.

As the saying goes... "A business is only as successful as its employees!"

And that goes for ANY industry!

Thursday, April 18
Scal1024

I hope for the sake of everyone involved, there is a fair resolution. There are no winners in this standoff and I'm sure financially it's hurting the employees and their families.

Beacon Commenter while I understand where you're coming from I'm not sure anyone is rooting for the Corporation. Stop & Shops locally have been pretty empty as you drive by. I believe the support is there for the employees, my feeling is however, Stop & Shop believes the longer this goes the more likely the employees will break. Certainly not the most surprising stance a Corporation could take.

Friday, April 19