Today, marks the fifth day of the Stop & Shop supermarket strike in different parts of the New England Region (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island). Over 30,000 unionized employees have stood up to demand higher wages and healthcare benefits after Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, presented them with a new contract which would severely hurt workers. This harmful contract included some of the following provisions:
- The elimination of Holiday/Sunday pay
- Bonuses as opposed to increased wages
- Reduced sick days
- Replacing pensions w/ a 401k
- Exclusion of spouses from health insurance
Therefore, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the nation’s leading union for supermarket employees, began striking late afternoon on Thursday, April 11. Since then, after only five days, it is obvious laborers (cashiers, stockers, bakers, deli clerks and butchers) are the foundation of Stop & Shop’s success as numerous stores have been forced to close since the strike started. Despite the consequences, Stop & Shop has refused to cooperate with the union’s proposals, claiming they are “unsustainable.”
However, it is important to note, the contract employees are advocating for is not radical as they are simply asking for: pay increases, no changes to employees’ deductibles a $2-4 increase on health insurance premiums and an increase to the company’s pension fund contributions (these are just a few). In other words – employees want sustainable wages, better health coverage, and a secure retirement. Unsurprisingly, Ahold Delhaize claims they cannot raise the wages of employees without being forced to raise consumer prices. Nevertheless, financial records show that Ahold Delhaize recorded over $2 billion in profits to their shareholders last year. In addition, Thomas Kochan, Director of the MIT Sloan Institute for Work and Employment Research, found that it was possible for Stop & Shop to comply with the union’s proposal without having to increase consumer prices.
Thus, it is evident Stop & Shop does not value its employees the way it should as they have continued to spread lies, via press releases, in order to suppress laborers pay and benefits. This is highly unfortunate as several Stop & Shop employees have gone on record to say that they barely earn enough pay to put gas in their vehicle and get to work. After all, the cost of living has become a prevalent issue in the New England Region as housing, utilities, transportation, and healthcare prices continue to escalate. Therefore, it is only fair Stop & Shop reflects on the significance of their employees and reach an agreement which benefits the union with higher pay, better health insurance premiums, and a stronger pension fund. As laborers who work 40 hours a week, they are more than deserving of all these benefits, especially as the company’s CEO and shareholders continue to get wealthier.