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New England Stop & Shop workers hold the line

By Staff |
April 19, 2019
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Stop & Shop strikers.
Stop & Shop strikers. Stop & Shop strikers.

Holoke, MA - On the sixth day of an ongoing strike, a picket line of 40 workers, union families, and supporters faced a sparse parking lot at the Lincoln Street Stop & Shop in Holyoke. The strike was called by United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) earlier this week in response to Stop & Shop's efforts to strongarm severe cuts within the proposed contract. According to Local 1459, these cuts include a shift to 401K away from pensions, inadequate wage compensation and attacks on the health benefits of workers.

 

Positioned at both entrances of the supermarket in equal numbers, the strikers encouraged their neighbors to do their shopping elsewhere, explaining their reasons for demonstrating. Some offered directions and transportation to other local stores to shoppers arriving by bus and rideshare services.

 

In spite of a plummeting stock and massive losses in store profits, Stop & Shop's executives have doubled down on their proposal. Reporting from Northampton, nine miles north of Holyoke, Fight Back! reporters observed that scab labor had been brought in to work the warehouses used by the supermarket chain. At the Lincoln Street location in Holyoke, scab labor maintained the store's daily operation, to the tune of $20 per hour.

 

Cat Dunne, 60, an employee and UFCW member, noted that this decision yielded unexpected problems for management at the Holyoke location, where meats, produce and deli items have waited on shelves and vitrines past their sell-by dates for the strike to end. "Boar's Head did an integrity check on their meats, and instead of crediting the company for the waste, they took a picture and sent it to corporate and said, 'No credit!' They were 'eating it' this time. Way too much waste."

 

Dunne added, "The store is dead. Eew. They've had people in there flipping the fruits and vegetables to make them look decent. Nothing's been restocked or destocked since last Wednesday."

 

Asked about the demeanor of the fresh faces working the aisles, Dunne shook her head. "They like to instigate people. We had a big issue with them Saturday, so the manager made them stay in the store and not come out."

 

In an April 11 strike notice, UFCW Local 1459 states, "Stop & Shop's parent company, Ahold Delhaize, saw over $2 billion in profits last year and got a U.S. tax cut of $225 million in 2017. The company is claiming the proposed cuts are necessary, but is unlawfully refusing to provide financial information to verify that claim."

 

"While Stop & Shop continues to propose drastically cutting worker benefits, Ahold shareholders voted on April 10 to give themselves an 11.1% raise in dividends over the last year. The expected payout will be on April 25 for around $880 million."

 

The UFCW has called for a larger turnout for the weekend in anticipation of the Easter holiday.

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