VIDEO: Stop & Shop Workers Still Striking in Chelmsford and Throughout New England

Stop & Shop workers began striking on April 11 and continue to picket the store six days later. PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE

 

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Stop & Shop workers are continuing to strike in Chelmsford and throughout New England as company officials negotiate with union members of United Food and Commercial Workers 1445.

The beef is over a defined benefits package that would deny health care coverage to workers’ spouses if the spouses are eligible for coverage through their own employers.

On April 17, about a dozen Union Local 1445 workers stood outside the Chelmsford Stop & Shop, holding signs asking patrons not to enter the store. Inside, the store was empty. A line of shopping carts served as a barricade to the aisles of food, but allowed passage for patrons who do their banking at Citizens inside the grocery store. [Continue below]

The chain has 240 stores and about 31,000 workers in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The strike began on April 11. The next day company president, Mark McGowan, stated in a letter, “Our offer provides pay increases for all associates, excellent health coverage with deductibles that would not change, increased contributions to the employee pension plans and no changes in paid time off or holidays for current associates. You can see for yourself in the offer summary fact sheets we have posted below.”

But Julian Beard, spokesman for the Chelmsford union workers, said the workers are dissatisfied with the proposed contract.

“All we’re asking for is a fair contract, and all we’re getting is air,” he said.

Beard said the main issues are health care premium costs, wages, and pensions. He said the union and the company are still far apart in their negotiations.

Striking Stop & Shop workers in Chelmsford have caused the store to shut down. PHOTO BY JOYCEPELLINOCRANE

It’s not clear what’s causing the bottleneck. Stop & Shop officials published the following outline of what is being offered in the contract:

  • “Keeping the defined benefit pension for all associates, 100% funded by the company.
  • No cuts to pension benefits associates already have earned.
  • Twenty percent increase in the company’s contributions to the pension fund to keep benefits growing under the funds’ rules at the same rate for current full- and vested part-time associates.
  • Increased pension fund contributions are at no cost to associates.
  • Nearly all other companies, if anything, only provide access to a 401(k) plan funded by employees, possibly with an employer match.
  • Associate pension benefits are managed by the UFCW pension funds, whose trustees include representatives of the union and employers in the plan.”

“It’s a lot of propaganda. A lot of lies,” said Beard. “And they’re not forthcoming with the things they should do and they’re not doing.”

Julian Beard (center). PHOTO BY JOYCE PELLINO CRANE