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News :: Labor
Stop & Shop Contract Negotiations: General Strike for Health Care?
14 Feb 2004
The United Food and Commercial Worker’s Union (UFCW) contract with Stop & Shop Supermarket Company expires on February 14th, 2004 at midnight. Negotiations about the contract began in July of last year, when Stop & Shop proposed outrageous changes to their renewal contract with the UFCW. There are 120 Stop & Shop grocery stores in the State of Massachusetts alone, and Stop & Shop is the #1 grocery retailer in New England. The UFCW local Union 1459 will be voting on the contract proposal on Sunday February 15th, 2004 in West Springfield, MA. The New England, New York and New Jersey UFCW labor movement has agreed to take whatever means necissary to "protect the livelihood of their members and families." If an agreement is not negotiated, a general stike and picket line are the only alternative to preserving their workplace rights.

As subsidiaries of Royal Ahold, an international food retailer based out of the Netherlands, Stop & Shop, Peapod, Bi-Lo, Bruno’s, Giant and Tops are all retailers that belong to this trans-national corporation. AholdUSA maintains over 1,600 stores on the East Coast, serving approximately 20 million customers/week and employing over 170,000 people. Ahold claims that almost 60% of their worldwide sales are generated in the United States, and increased competition in the marketplace, and Ahold marketshare, is the most likely reason for making such dramatic changes to their Union contracts.

In New England, Stop & Shop owns more than 340 retail grocery stores and employs approximately 42,000 Union members. Over 80% of Stop & Shop employees are part time, and market demands seem the most likely reason for contract changes. The current negotiations between the UFCW Union and Stop & Shop have stalled on the following issues: major alterations to current Health Care benefits, changes to “overtime” pay for Sundays & Holidays, offering opt-out options which will weaken benefits, and lesser Employer contributions to the Health & Welfare Fund.

According to a February 10th article in the SouthCoast Today, Faith Weiner, a spokeswoman of Stop & Shop, said that negotiations are not connected to changes in the grocery industry, and specifically not competition with other trans-nationals such as Walmart.

These proposals are similar to those that the UFCW has been fighting in California, where wages, health care and pensions have all been effected by retail grocery competition against Walmart.

During the last 4 months, Over 70,000 UFCW Union members have been on strike against another chain of grocery retailers: the Safeway-owned Vons, Albertsons and Kroger grocery stores. In California, there are various ways that non-Union members are invited to get involved with this labor struggle, including e-mail letters to Safeway, an academic petition for Colleges & Universities, a petition for Health Care Professionals and a Volunteer Sign-Up for those interested in holding the line.

The Massachuestts UFCW Union, Local 1459 has a new section on their official website titled: Negotiation News! Updates about the local situation will be posted online, and if a strike takes effect, Union news will be available here. You can also contact Stop & Shop directly using their convenient comment form on their main website. While the Union is doing what they can to support worker's rights, individuals throughout the State can also do their part by contacting Stop & Shop, visiting their local store and asking the manager about the proposed changes, and showing their support for Stop & Shop Employees be it at the checkout line or on the picket line.


Stop & Shop Workers Prevail in Negotiations
from UFCW Local 1459 Website

Nearly 600 Local 1459 grocery store workers voted unaminously to approve a new three year contract with their employer, Stop & Shop. Leadership from Local 1459, along with the four other unions that represent 42,000 Stop & Shop workers, ironed out their differences with Stop & Shop management and negotiated a last minute agreement into the wee hours of Febrary 15th, 2004. Members at the contract ratification meeting the same morning were pleased with the successful gains made in the negotiations and greatly relieved at having avoided the prospect of a strike.

David Gokey, a Stop & Shop worker and UFCW Local 1459 vice president who helped negotiate the contract, reported that "Negotiations ended up well but it was touch and go for a while. [Stop & Shop] finally listened." A major sticking point was managment's desire to force workers to pay copayments on their health insurance. Currently, the company picks up 100% of all eligbile worker's health care costs. But the union woldn't give, and pointed out Stop & Shop's $787 million dollars in profits last year as a way of getting the company to concede. Local 1459 also won wage increases for full and part-time workers, continued coverage for the pension fund and the pre-paid legal program, and an agreement to have jurisdiction in Stop & Shop's Vermont stores when they open.

Scott Macey, Local 1459 president, stated that "The workers have themselves to thank for showing management they meant business. Their solidarity heartened me and certainly strengthened our position at the negotiating table." In the final week of the contract negotiations, workers began wearing "I don't want to strike, but I will" buttons on their uniforms. Workers had equal amounts of praise for their leadership. Tyrone Housey, a Local 1459 steward and Stop & Shop worker says "Local 1459 went to bat for us and they did a tremendous job looking out for our interests. They stayed the distance."

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