Stop & Shop workers vote to approve contract
Stop & Shop workers have approved a new contract, following an 11-day strike last month that crippled New England’s largest and only fully unionized supermarket chain.
Five United Food & Commercial Workers locals in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut representing 31,000 workers voted on the proposal over the course of the past week and a half, ending Wednesday with Local 1459 in Springfield.
Vote totals were not released, but the unit voted “overwhelmingly in favor,” of the pact, the union said in a statement Wednesday evening.
The union released few details about the agreement, noting that it preserved access to affordable health care while maintaining eligibility for spouses, protected premium pay on Sundays for full and part-timers, maintained current pensions, and kept the same number of sick days and paid holidays for current and future employees. The contract also grants raises for part-timers moving to full-time and guarantees a pathway for new hires to earn more than minimum wage.
Previously, the union acknowledged that future part-timers would get lower pension contributions and would not be guaranteed time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays during their first three years. About three-quarters of the workforce is part time.
Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, reported that it lost $10 million a day during the work stoppage at more than 240 stores due to wasted inventory and a substantial decrease in sales.
Shoppers were reluctant to cross picket lines and deal with reduced inventory, and many took their business to nearby competitors. In the first few days of the strike, visits to the grocery chain by regular customers dropped 75 percent, compared with the previous weekend, according to an analysis of mobile device data by Skyhook, a location technology and intelligence company in Boston.
“New England families have sent a powerful message to corporations across the country – that when standing together, workers and customers can protect the good jobs our communities need,” the UFCW said in a statement. “With growing income inequality, we are united by the shared belief that one job should be enough to provide for a family and that hardworking Americans do not have to struggle alone.”
Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a statement that the company was pleased to have a fair and responsible new contract in place. “This has been a challenging period for everyone,” he said. “However, together with the UFCW union locals, we were able to reach agreements that got the balance right, with strong rewards for associates plus significant, durable structural changes, particularly on health care, that will enable Stop & Shop to protect jobs, serve our customers, and compete successfully as New England’s only remaining fully-unionized large supermarket company.”