Over the weekend UFCW and Stop & Shop have reached a tentative agreement. Via a press release, the striking union stated that the new agreement “preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.”
The strike lasted in the end, 10 days and cost the supermarket chain tens of millions of dollars. The UCFW statement went on to say, “Today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want – good jobs, affordable health care, a better wage, and to be treated right by the company they made a success.”
It’s hard to say what actual effect that visits from high profile politicians have on strikes but one thing can be assured – solidarity works. Very few people in the area of the strikes crossed the picket lines and reporters documented empty parking lots even when picket lines weren’t active.
Stop & Shop union employees have been striking for nearly a week now. They have received a continual stream of high-level support from Democratic politicians many that are running for the Presidency. With New Hampshire, the second state in the Democratic primary being right next door, it’s no surprise.
Senator Elizabeth Warren was the first to arrive earlier this week bringing with her a Massachusetts staple, Dunkin’ Donuts. As I write this Mayor Pete Buttigieg is bringing his man of the people campaign to the grocery store workers in Boston. Bernie Sanders hasn’t made a personal appearance but has tweeted support, decrying the new contract that Stop & Shop is offering their workers. As there are no tables to stand on, I’m not sure if Beto will make an appearance anytime.
While former Vice President Joe Biden hasn’t officially announced (supposedly he’s dropping a web video next week) the (so far) three-time Presidential candidate joined the UFCW and other unions at a large rally in front of the Stop & Shop in Dorchester, MA.
Biden was joined by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Ed Markey, and assorted union leaders. The former Vice President has had long held support from unions and the excitement around him running for President was palpable at the rally. Union members held ‘Run Biden’ signs and wore t-shirts from prior Biden campaigns for President.
Biden told the audience of his father teaching him early on, “You know Joey, a job is a lot more than a paycheck, it’s about your decency and your place in the community. It’s how your treated, it’s about decency, it’s about honor. It’s about looking your kid in the eye and saying ‘Honey it’s going to be OK.”
‘Uncle Joe’ often tells hokey stories like that, pushing his Pennsylvania roots. Unfortunately, his actual record in the Senate is one of protecting the credit card industry (which much of is centered in the state he represents, Delaware). So when he says lines like, “And let me get something straight with you all – Wall Street bankers and CEO’s didn’t build America – you built America, we built America – ordinary middle-class people built America,” to me, it rings a little false.
The attention that the candidates are bringing to the strike seems to be working – according to a firm that analyzes visits to stores like Stop & Shop reports that traffic is down 75% to the grocery locations. At the same time, visits to similar stores such as Market Basket and Trader Joes are up. Stop & Shop is not doing poorly as a company, neither is their parent company. The firm that owns Stop & Shop, Ahold Delhaize also owns Food Lion, GIANT Food Stores, and Hannaford – which generated a revenue of $44 billion.
The workers of Stop & Shop only took to the picket lines after months of contract negotiations. They are mainly asking for their company not to cut their pensions or have increases their healthcare costs.
Over 240 stores are currently affected by the strike, bakeries and deli counters within the stores are closed. If you were looking to support the striking workers you can find more info at the UFCW site.