EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI/AP) — Stop & Shop employees at locations around New England walked off the job Thursday afternoon amid a contract dispute with the company.
Tens of thousands of members of United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328, 371, 919, 1445, and 1459 were said to be taking part in the demonstration to protest “proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts” to pay and benefits.
A number of stores closed and turned customers away when the walkout began but many have since reopened with temporary workers. A spokesperson for Stop & Shop said the company is working to get each of its stores back up and running.
The five unions released a joint statement Thursday, saying that since its members’ hard work makes the company billions of dollars, they deserve to be duly compensated.
“The men and women who make Stop & Shop a success have earned and deserve affordable health care, a good wage, and the ability to retire with dignity,” they wrote.
“What Stop & Shop workers don’t deserve, and what no one who works hard in New England deserves, are unreasonable cuts while the company they work so hard for makes billions of dollars in profits,” it continued. “That is wrong and it sends a terrible message to every customer who truly depends on our Stop & Shop cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerk, and butchers.”
In a statement Thursday, Stop & Shop spokesperson Jennifer Brogan said the company is “disappointed” that the unions chose to walk off the job.
As for the contract negotiations, Brogan said Stop & Shop “has proposed a good and reasonable offer to our union locals,” which includes pay increases, health care benefits, and increased company contributions to UFCW’s pension fund.
“This morning the company made several suggestions to the federal mediators to encourage further bargaining,” Brogan wrote. “The mediators gave those proposals to the Locals late in the morning. The Locals provided no counter proposals to the mediators and simply stated they were proceeding with their plans.”
“Stop & Shop remains ready and available to meet with the union locals at any time,” she continued. “We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible that both recognize and reward the great work of our associates.”
Union leaders voted to authorize the strike last month. It also includes Eastside Marketplace in Providence, which is owned by Stop & Shop.
Stop & Shop is a division of Ahold Delhaize, a Dutch retail conglomerate.
A spokesperson for Citizens Bank said its branches located inside Stop & Shop stores will remain open with no disruption. Customers who have trouble accessing one of these branches should call Citizens Bank at 1-800-922-9999 or use the branch locator on its website to find another nearby.