Calm before storm for Stop & Shop, union?

  • French King Highway location of Stop & Shop in Greenfield. file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 3/11/2019 10:59:21 PM

GREENFIELD — Pull into the parking lot at Stop & Shop on French King Highway, and all seems quiet, at the moment.

For the supermarket’s workers on Monday afternoon, it was business as usual. Some stocked shelves. Some helped customers find that brand of tomato sauce they were looking for. Over at the open registers, a different image came into sharper focus. The United Food & Commercial Works Local employees wore pins in solidarity: “United we bargain. Divided we beg.” and “Respect our contract.”

The day before in Chicopee, a two-state bargaining unit authorized the right to strike as the Stop & Shop workers chose not to vote on a contract.

The grocer and its workers remain at odds over issues like wages, hours and health insurance, as the employees say Stop & Shop, with its 17 stores in western Massachusetts, is focused on automation, even as the business says it’s focusing on lowering product prices for consumers.

“At Stop & Shop, we’re committed to providing excellent service, quality products and great value to our customers,” reads the lead statement on the business’s communications web page devoted to the 2019 labor questions. “And to being a great place to work for our more than 31,000 associates throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.”

Precinct 8 Greenfield City Councilor Doug Mayo, a strong supporter for unionized labor, went to bat for the UFCW local Monday, telling the Recorder “It’s important to see the community come out and support their neighbors,” … These people are not only union employees, but they’re your neighbors, too. That’s an important thing to remember. Would you want this to happen to you? Absolutely not. And if it did? You’d want support.”

Mayo, who was a longtime union steward and president, was supported by the UFCW Local on his campaign for City Council in November 2017.

Mayo said he is a frequent shopper at Stop & Shop. He chooses to shop there because the workers are unionized.

He said he’s seen recently the morale down among employees he’s gotten to know in recent years.

“They’re very scared about losing their job,” Mayo said. “Some have taken early retirement and they’ve left before they were fired.”

Stop & Shop said it is committed to providing competitive wages, affordable, flexible health for every eligible employee and secure retirement benefits.

According to Stop & Shop, on average in Massachusetts: a full-time grocery clerk makes $19.57; a full-time produce clerk, $17.22; a full-time bakery clerk, $18.31; and a full-time front-end clerk, $15.90.

“Stop & Shop would like us to accept a contract that severely cuts our health care and retirement benefits, but we will not accept one that devalues our members,” spokeswoman Amy Ritter for UFCW International said in a statement.

Mayo points to automation as a key turning point. He said he always makes it a point to check out through the register lines with a person helping you rather than automated checkout.

Stop & Shop also has introduced an automated machine with big, googly eyes, which is named Marty.

When you walk into the Greenfield Stop & Shop, a highlighter pink sign next to the automatic doors reads: “This store is monitored by Marty for your safety. Marty is an autonomous robot that uses image capture technology to report spills, debris and other potential hazards to store employees to improve your shopping experience.”

The grocer points to the fact it is trying to reach a “fair new contract with New England’s only large fully unionized supermarket workforce.” Local grocers like Big Y, Foster’s, Walmart and Market Basket do not have full staffs that are unionized.

Stop & Shop said it works toward a fair contract, “while also overcoming the substantial challenges we are facing in the rapidly changing New England food retail market.”

Greenfield, the de facto county seat, has three supermarkets. Some residents, at times, complain the city does not have a Market Basket or Walmart.

For years residents have waited to learn if a 135,000-square-foot big box store proposed for French King Highway would include a grocery section.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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