If you’re one of the many people around the region who rely on Stop & Shop for groceries, the news that Stop & Shop union workers walked off the job on Thursday might have left you scratching your head.
About 31,000 workers, unhappy with contract negotiations with the company, last month authorized their labor leaders to call for a work stoppage. And on Thursday, union workers made good on that threat by leaving at 1 p.m.
But what does all of this mean for the average Stop & Shop customer? Here, we take a look at some immediate questions that shoppers may have.
How is my store affected?
A Stop & Shop representative reached by the Globe late Thursday afternoon said she did not have specific numbers or locations for the stores that have been affected. However, if your store is located in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut, there is a good chance your local Stop & Shop could be part of the walkout.
Company officials said that some stores were temporarily closed and the doors locked “for the safety of our customers and associates.” As of 5 p.m. Thursday, several locations in the Boston area — including Somerville, South Bay Center, Brookline, Quincy, Dedham, and Worcester — have reopened, according to Jennifer Brogan, a Stop & Shop spokesperson.
As of 5:30 p.m., Brogan said, the majority affected stores have been reopened. All affected stores will close at 8 p.m. Thursday, and will reopen at 8 a.m. Friday, she said.
Some of the stores are getting temporary replacement workers, Brogan said, as workers who tend to have desk jobs (such as in the Quincy corporate headquarters) head in to help ring registers or stock shelves, Brogan said. Additionally, self-checkout lanes are available to customers in the stores that are open.
“We are working as quickly as possible to reopen the stores and to minimize disruptions to our customers,” Brogan said.
In the meantime, here’s a map of all 134 Stop & Shop locations in Massachusetts.
Will I have to walk through a picket line?
It’s unclear if all stores would have workers rallying outside.
But at the Stop & Shop on McGrath Highway in Somerville on Thursday afternoon, dozens of union members milled around the front of the store, urging people not to go in. (Shoppers looked surprised and confused, according to a Globe reporter at the scene.)
The workers in Somerville held signs bearing messages such as “Please don’t cross the line.” In front of the Freeport Street location in Dorchester, some signs read, “Please respect our picket line!”
What do I do if my prescription is at the pharmacy? What about the bank?
Even if a store is closed, all pharmacies and banks inside Stop & Shops will be open during normal hours, Brogan said. There will be store managers at the door ready to let any customers in who need to go to the pharmacy or the bank, Brogan said.
Several other people noted that Stop & Shop pharmacies seemed to be open in closed stores.
A look inside the front door at Somerville’s @StopandShop .— Evan White (@EvanWhiteIII) April 11, 2019
Doors only opening for bank/pharmacy customers. No food sales today. Spokesperson for @StopandShop says there is a contingency plan. Asked what that was. Waiting. .@boston25 pic.twitter.com/Fsd4U0bpsV
Stop & Shop workers walking the picket lines outside the supermarket chain’s #Cheshire store in Maplecroft Plaza. The store, like many others in Connecticut, shut down at 1 p.m. Only the People’s United Bank branch and pharmacy are in operation right now. pic.twitter.com/X6JIqwnvk0— Luther Turmelle (@LutherTurmelle) April 11, 2019
What if I scheduled a Peapod delivery?
There may be some delays with orders, Brogan said, but a couple of tweet replies from the official @PeapodDelivers Twitter account assured customers that the walkout will not affect Peapod deliveries.
As of right now, it is business as usual. However if anything changes, we will certainly be keeping our customers informed.— Peapod Delivers (@PeapodDelivers) April 11, 2019
How long will this go on for?
The union did not mention a specific length of time that they plan to walk out for, and Brogan said the company did not have any indication on how long it could last.
How big of a deal is this?
Stop & Shop is the biggest grocery chain in New England by market share, according to Shelby Publishing Co., owner of The Griffin Report of the Northeast.
Shelby Publishing breaks down New England into two markets — east and west — and Stop & Shop rules both. In the west (Hartford/Springfield/Montpelier) region, Stop & Shops saw 40.7 percent of the market share, while the company saw 22 percent in the east (Boston/Providence/Manchester/Portland/Bangor) region.
(Hannaford, which is now a corporate sibling, is prevalent in the east — its roots are in Maine, but came into Massachusetts with the Victory purchase — but does not have much of a presence in the west.)
Why are the union workers so upset?
The Stop & Shop workers — represented by five separate UFCW unions — had remained at work since their contracts with the grocery store chain expired Feb. 23.
However, the union hasn’t exactly kept quiet about their concerns. A group of workers and supporters marched through a Somerville store in March to demand a fair contract.
The union president said at that time that union leaders oppose the company’s proposed contract change, which they said would cut wages, pensions, and health insurance. The company has also cut staff and relied more on automation, he said.
“This company has shown us that they do not respect you,” said Jeff Bollen, president of UFCW Local 1445, in a video. “They do not respect the hard work that you do every day, and we’re done talking today. We’re going to take action.”
The union said in a statement on Thursday that the company is flush with cash.
“Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, saw over $2 billion in profit last year and got a US tax cut of $225 million in 2017,” the statement said. “While Stop & Shop continues to propose drastically cutting worker benefits, Ahold shareholders voted on April 10 to give themselves an 11.1 percent raise in dividends over last year. The expected payout will be on April 25 for around $880 million.”
What is the company’s stance?
Stop & Shop officials said in a statement Thursday that they were “disappointed” with the union’s actions, and said it was still trying to negotiate as recently as this morning.
In an outline of its position on the Stop & Shop website, the company states that their contract proposal includes competitive wages, healthcare for eligible employees, and retirement benefits.
“Full-time Stop & Shop union associates in New England are among the highest paid in the industry,” the company wrote online, adding that the average hourly wage is $21.30. “Under our latest proposal, all associates would see an increase in take-home pay. Wage cuts have never been proposed.”
Travis Andersen, Martin Finucane, Jon Chesto, and Matt Rocheleau of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Max Reyes and John Hilliard contributed to this report.