Stop & Shop union workers strike

  • Union Steward of UFCW 1459 Taunette Greene, center, and others picket outside a closed Stop & Shop in Greenfield STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Union workers strike at Stop & Shop in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Striking union workers greet people passing by the Greenfield Stop & Shop on Thursday afternoon, STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Union workers picket outside a closed Stop & Shop in Greenfield on Thursday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Union Stop & Shop workers picket outside a temporarily closed Stop & Shop in Greenfield Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/11/2019 2:35:05 PM

GREENFIELD — The 120 unionized employees of the city’s Stop & Shop, almost all of whom are part-time workers, went on strike Thursday afternoon. 

The grocery store, which also has a pharmacy and a bank inside, will remain open through the strike as the company pays for temporary employees to fill the void. The union workers on the picket line encouraged residents to take their business elsewhere, respect their strike and return once a contract has been settled. 

Union employees have been at odds with Stop & Shop management since January. The workers are asking for fairer wages, sufficient health insurance coverage, honoring pension plans and returning customer service to the levels it once were in the store. 

The Greenfield workers joined their fellow 31,000 unionized employees at about 240 Stop & Shop stores across New England who are now on strike indefinitely. 

A month ago the employees of Stop & Shop authorized the right to strike. Four weeks later, negotiations did not result in a new contract. 

“Every time we come to the bargaining table,” Ricky Butynski, union shop steward, said, “they don’t want to talk about adding to anything. They just want to talk about taking away.”

Butynski, a Millers Falls resident who has been working at Stop & Shop since 1982, said he sees the issue as greed by management. 

Stop & Shop’s parent company took in $2 billion in profits in 2018, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers, the union representing the employees. UFCW reported shareholders voted Wednesday to give themselves about an 11 percent raise in dividends for a payout of $880 million. 

“It’s all to make them more money,” Butynski said. “Where does that end? I guess it ends here today.” 

Calls and emails to Stop & Shop corporate spokespeople went unanswered Thursday. 

In prior statements, the company has said it pays its employees more than its competitors. 

Prescriptions will be honored at the pharmacy, but the union workers on the picket line recommended people call the store and ask to transfer their prescriptions temporarily to other pharmacies in the area. 

Floral arrangements, like ones pre-ordered for prom, may not be completed in time. People are encouraged to call the florist department to check on the status of their orders. 

Butynski, who works in the meat department, said the company has been shifting to pre-packaged meat, saying, “It’s subpar from what we cut here.” 

Fellow union steward Taunette Greene remembered when she got her job at Stop & Shop when she was 16 years old. She said you used to have to know someone. The company paid fair wages and provided part-time employees with health insurance coverage. 

Forty-six years later, Greene, the vice president of regional UFCW 1459, said she is pushing for benefits that help people live a better quality of life. 

“They want to take all of that away from the new people so what’s the incentive to come and work here,” Greene, a Greenfield resident, said. 

Greenfield Precinct 6 City Councilor Sheila Gilmour, who is running for mayor, stood on the picket line holding a sign. Gilmour said affordable housing in Greenfield is difficult to come by when working at minimum wage. 

She advocated for fair wages and said if workers are not paid more, “where are they supposed to live?” 

Fellow vocal union supporter on the council, Precinct 8 City Councilor Doug Mayo said while standing on the picket line that he was “very disappointed” on hearing the news about the strike. 

“I just can’t tell you how disappointed I am that management decided to do this when there’s so much at the table to talk about,” Mayo said. 

Congressman Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, said in a statement he stands in solidarity with the UFCW workers “who are demanding the health care and retirement benefits they work hard for.”

“We won’t stop fighting until every worker and family in America is treated with the dignity and respect they are entitled to,” McGovern said. 

Bill Flynn, a Greenfield resident, has worked at Stop & Shop for 40 years as a dairy clerk. He joined his fellow workers on the picket line Thursday afternoon. He said the raise Stop & Shop offered is “very substandard” and the offerings over health care and pensions are not adequate yet.

“We hope it will be resolved as soon as possible,” Flynn said. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264 


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