A union representing nearly 10,000 Stop & Shop workers in Massachusetts voted Sunday morning to authorize a strike, hours after the employees’ contract had expired at midnight, according to a statement from the organization.
The vote followed more than a month of negotiations between the supermarket chain and five union locals of the United Food & Commercial Workers, representing employees in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, according to UFCW Local 1445.
In a statement, Local 1445 said it and the other four union locals “remain committed to the negotiation process.
“We will be sure to notify our loyal customers and the public at large, as soon as additional strike authorization votes become necessary,” the union continued. “The need for any further actions will be based entirely on the employer’s behavior at the negotiation table.”
Stop & Shop issued a statement Sunday saying it is “continuing to negotiate in good faith” to reach an agreement on contracts that “ensure that Stop & Shop continues to be a great place to work, with competitive wages and affordable health care for eligible associates.
“Full-time Stop & Shop associates are among the highest paid food retail workers in the region,” the company said. “Stop & Shop has committed up to $2 billion to upgrade our stores over the next several years to better serve our customers and communities as we also lower prices and expand opportunities for our associates.”
Stop & Shop has argued that it’s forced to compete against nonunion chains such as Market Basket, Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Walmart, which have “much lower labor costs.”
Local 1445, based in Boston, is the first of the five union locals set to vote on a potential strike. The authorization allows the local to call for a strike at any time, it said, but so far all five locals are asking members to continue working while contract negotiations continue.
Massachusetts has about 16,000 Stop & Shop workers who would be affected by a strike, along with untold thousands of customers.