Stop & Shop strike rolls toward holiday weekend

  • Greenfield's Stop & Shop is open on a limited operation while its 120 unionized employees are on strike. The bank and pharmacy services are expected to continue. Staff Photo/Joshua Solomon

Staff Writer
Published: 4/16/2019 11:34:07 PM

GREENFIELD — With the holiday weekend approaching, neither Stop & Shop corporate nor the United Food & Commercial Workers union are signaling an end is in sight. 

“They want to screw their employees more than they want their Easter business,” Union steward and Vice President of UFCW 1459 Taunette Greene said. 

Tuesday marked the sixth day of the strike that has sidelined 31,000 Stop & Shop employees at around 240 stores across New England. 

The main issue union workers here continue to echo are the rights of part-time employees and contributions to pensions. At Greenfield’s supermarket that employees 120 people, just over a dozen are full-time employees, many of whom have worked at Stop & Shop for decades. 

“If you’re going to create a part-time culture, you got to be responsible for it,” Union steward Ricky Butysnki said. 

Both sides released statements Tuesday on the status of their respective views about the negotiations, adding more detail and nuance to the conversation of what each side is demanding to date. 

The release of detailed statements on the latest proposals marks the first time both sides during this strike are negotiating through the press.

Corporate

“Stop & Shop has presented a fair, responsible offer to the five UFCW New England-area local unions that rewards our associates for the valuable role they play every day,” the statement from the corporate offices reads. “We are firmly committed to an agreement so we all can get back to what we do best — taking care of our customers.” 

Stop & Shop says its offer continues to deliver “excellent health care coverage for eligible associates.” 

According to the company, Stop & Shop will pay at least 92 percent of health premiums for family coverage and at least 88 percent for individual coverage, which is “much more than what other large retail employers pay.” Employees would also remain “well below” the national average for health premiums. 

The company says annual deductibles will not increase or change; spouses will be eligible for health care coverage if the spouse’s employer does not offer health insurance; and any changes to out-of-pocket maximums, if at all depending on the union, would remain “considerably lower” than the national average. 

Stop & Shop also says it’s offering pay increases to all associates. This includes no changes to Sunday time-and-a-half premiums for full-time employees. 

Regarding pensions, Stop & Shop says it will continue to offer defined benefit pensions to all employees with one year of service, which would be 100 percent funded by the company; a document from the company earlier in the day did not stipulate the one year of service. All existing, vested defined benefit pension plan benefits will continue. 

Jennifer Brogan, lead of communications for Stop & Shop, emphasized Tuesday the company does not plan on cutting pensions benefits associates have already earned.

“There have been some inaccurate messages that we are eliminating the plan,” Brogan said in an email Tuesday evening. “We are not.” 

Stop & Shop says it will not change the amount paid for time off or holidays for current associates. 

Union

Similarly, the union released a statement. “Stop & Shop can buy as many ads as they want, but they can’t change the facts,” UFCW said in a press release Tuesday evening. 

The union contests the company’s latest proposal will “drastically increase out-of-pocket health care costs, kick approximately 1,000 employees’ spouses off of their health care plan, and make it more challenging for 31,000 people to provide for themselves and their families.” 

The union contests Stop & Shop’s latest proposal will require the average full-time employee to pay an additional $893 in weekly health care premiums over three years and the average part-time employee with employee-only coverage to pay an additional $603 in weekly health care premiums over three years. 

The union claims the latest proposal will reduce monthly pension benefits for many newly hired full-time employees by 32 percent and reduce the monthly pension benefits for many part-time employees by up to 72 percent. 

Time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays for current part-time workers will be phased out, according to the union’s view of the company’s latest proposal, and it will eliminate it for new part-time hires. 

“If the company’s most recent offer becomes a reality, every working family, neighborhood, consumer and community will be hurt,” the release says. 

Board of Health

Tuesday also marked the first day the Greenfield health inspectors came to the store during the strike. 

The Board of Health received three complaints, primarily regarding a foul smell in the store. 

Board of Health Chairman Steve Adam went to the store with recently hired health inspector Ivan Kwagala to check out the complaints. They did not find anything credible, Adam said, although a smell was present. Produce and products checked out to be OK. 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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