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On fourth day of strike, Stop & Shop regulars pack other grocery stores

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Thousands of Stop & Shop workers were back on the picket line across New England for a fourth day, and are expected to be back out there on Monday.

Negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers union and the company continued for hours in Providence on Sunday, and are set to resume Monday morning. 

Stores have either been operating on shorter schedules or been closed during the strike. Stop & Shop has not specified which stores are open and which are not, as they are staffing them with temporary workers and employees from the corporate office in Quincy. The banks and pharmacies inside the supermarkets have remained open at all locations.

In East Providence, just a few customers trickled in during the afternoon, met with employees using megaphones asking them not to go inside. The parking lot was almost empty on a usually busy Sunday afternoon.

Across Taunton Avenue, the parking lot at competitor Shaw's was packed with shoppers, many who didn't want to cross the picket line at Stop & Shop.

"It's the busiest I've ever seen a Shaw's in my life," said Gail Zulla, who normally goes to Stop & Shop. "It's like it's a snow storm. There's no bread, there's nothing."

She said she'd keep shopping elsewhere until the strike is over.

"Or maybe I'll stay at Shaw's," Zulla said.

Unionized employees at the Stop & Shop in East Providence walked the picket line all day.

"We just want good wages, good health care as well," said Tammy Croce, a Customer Service Supervisor who has worked part-time for 27 years.

Stop & Shop says the company is offering raises across the board, but the union argues the raises don't make up for the increase in health insurance premiums. The company says premiums are going up by 2 to 4 dollars a week, and deductibles remain the same.

"We are family, all of us are family. And our company was our family. They're turning their backs on their family," Croce said.

Union workers are also worried about being replaced at the cash wrap by self-checkout machines.

"The whole world is high technology, they're just doing away with us one by one," Croce said.  

Jennifer Brogan, a spokesperson for Stop & Shop, said the company's foray into automation was in line with the industry.

"Heavily funded competitors like Amazon/Whole Foods, Walmart, and other major industry players are developing technologies and partnerships to reduce their costs, leverage data, offer customers increased choice, and improve service and value," Brogan said in part. "Stop & Shop will continue to use technology to enable our associates to connect with and serve our  communities even more effectively, included by freeing associates from certain work to allow them more time to focus on customer-related activities."


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