Stop & Shop strike wages on

  • Union steward Bill Flynn, who has worked at Stop & Shop for 40 years as a dairy clerk, stands outside the supermarket with fellow union members on day five of the United Food & Commercial Workers strike, impacting 240 stores and 30,000 employees across New England. STAFF PHOTO/JOSHUA SOLOMON

  • Union steward Taunette Greene, who has worked at Stop & Shop since she was 16 years old, stands outside the supermarket on day five of the United Food & Commercial Workers strike, impacting 240 stores and 30,000 employees across New England. STAFF PHOTO/JOSHUA SOLOMON

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2019 11:16:41 PM

GREENFIELD — A message began spreading Sunday night among some of the unionized Stop & Shop workers on strike for the fourth going on fifth day.

A truck delivery was expected to head to the Lincoln Street Stop & Shop in Holyoke. Their fellow union workers were going to try to hold the picket line strong. If they did so, the delivery likely would not be made.

Bill Flynn, a Greenfield resident and union steward, headed down Route 91 and arrived at the Holyoke store around 11 p.m. along with a couple of other striking workers from the Greenfield store. The truck driver turned out to be a Teamster, the union that said it would not cross the picket line to support them.

“It was a very surreal,” Flynn, who has been a dairy clerk for 40 years, said Monday afternoon in Greenfield. “It really gave you a sense of accomplishment. We’re all unified. We’re trying to get this to end as quickly as we can.”

The 120 workers at the Greenfield Stop & Shop — more than 100 of them part-time workers — remain on strike with some 30,000 United Food & Commercial Workers across 240 stores in New England.

Negotiations are ongoing between the union and corporations. They sat back at the table this weekend. A union spokesperson based in Washington could not comment on the specifics of negotiations nor could a spokesperson for Stop & Shop corporate.

On the day the strike started, April 11, the union filed an unfair labor charge. The union claims coercive statements in the nature of threats or promises of benefits, according to case filings with the National Labor Relations Board.

In late March, following the union authorizing the right to strike but prior to going on strike April 11, the union charged in two separate counts on the last week of March that Stop & Shop was bargaining in bad faith, refusing to supply information and the repudiation or modification of a contract.

On the ground in Greenfield Monday, the workers remained committed to protecting the rights of part-time workers.

Literature handed out at the picket line explains the reasons for striking: reducing holiday and Sunday pay for part-timers; bonuses instead of wage increases; reduction in sick days for new hires; raises in health care premiums up to 90 percent; decreases in take-home pay; reductions to pension benefits by up to 72 percent; exclusion of some spouses from health care coverage; decrease customer service with self-checkout technology.

Stop & Shop spokespeople have said the company will not reduce wages for associates; offer health care plans that other companies do not; and increase contributions to some pension plans.

The company has often said it offers its employees more than its competitors.

On Monday, Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan issued a message to customers that the company remains committed to a fair contract to its unionized employees.

“Stop & Shop recognizes the valuable role our associates play in creating a great experience for you,” McGowan said in his statement. “They are a part of your lives, a part of our community and a key to our success.”

The union stewards are full-time workers, with pensions potentially hanging in the balance as they approach retirement age, but their main talking point is making certain part-time workers have a reason to be committed to the store.

“For 25 years they created this part-time culture,” Ricky Butynski, union steward and meat clerk, said.

The union stewards say the jobs becomes “disposable” with no incentives to stay. The amount of benefits and wages offered have dwindled in recent years. Employees have noted two decades ago the store used to employee 220 people instead of its current 120.

“This has been coming for a long time,” Butysnki said about the shift to part-time staff. “It was like the elephant in the room.”

Long-time employees often reflect on the picket line about the days in which they were able to provide the level of customer service they were taught to deliver. It’s a point of pride in their work, they say. The culture has shifted to part-time employees who are unlikely to make careers and build pensions at the supermarket chain.

Taunette Greene, the lead union representative at the Greenfield Stop & Shop and the vice president of the regional union, said in the five days workers been out on the picket line, they have formed friendships they never were able to in years past.

“We’ve developed great community friendship that they’ll never be able to break,” Greene, who has worked at Stop & Shop for 46 years, said.

This past weekend, the penultimate weekend before Easter and Passover, they said they had never seen so few people in their parking lot in their decades of working at Stop & Shop.

“It’s overwhelmingly to see the community support us,” Butynski said. “We didn’t tell 65,000 people what our situation was, going door to door. They’re supporting us by not showing up.”

Fellow union workers have supported them over the past few days.

The American Postal Workers Union, part of AFL-CIO, has committed to not cross their picket line either, the stewards said. If people have mail they typically drop off at the mailbox at Stop & Shop, they encourage them it might be best to go elsewhere for the moment.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264


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