No Easter Egg Hunt Party, Passover or Easter Dinner will be supplied by the Stop and Shop in South Boston. One of the highest grossing stores in the region, the store has been closed because of the solidarity of the South Boston community. As one of the striking workers commented, “The recent installation of self-service scanners and pay stations were a telltale sign of things to come”.
The union has asked customers not to shop at the grocery chain’s stores, while the strike is underway. The strike has caused some Stop & Shop locations to close, while others have remained open due to replacement workers, but not in South Boston on Broadway. Local residents, who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) were joined by local elected officials in maintaining a picket line outside of the front door.
Former Vice President Joe Biden will speak at a rally today to support striking employees of Stop & Shop at South Bay Dorchester, Massachusetts, the union announced. Biden tweeted the day after the strike began that the supermarket’s plan to cut employee wages and benefits “is wrong.”
About 31,000 Stop & Shop unionized employees across more than 240 stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have been on strike since April 11. The strike’s organizers of the UFCW argue that Stop & Shop has “refused to back down from proposals attempting to cut workers’ health care, take home pay, and retirement benefits” despite $2 billion in profit in fiscal 2018.
“The decision to walk off the job is a tough one. If one person were to try to fight back on cuts like these by themselves, they wouldn’t stand a chance,” the UFCW said in a statement. “But the 31,000 workers who made this choice are doing it together as one union family. None of them have to fight for their health care and benefits alone. Together they can fight these cuts and protest the company’s unlawful actions in connection with negotiations—and win.”
There are side effects to the closure. Other businesses that are adjacent to many stores are affected by the lack of foot traffic. Senior citizens, who frequent the store have to make alternate plans, and that puts pressure on The Ride and other transportation options. Cab drivers have to work other areas and compete with those who’ve staked their claims there over time. Delivery services get a boost, as residents patronize other stores. On top of that, Rite-Aid shelves are emptying out because it is closing and undergoing a makeover as it transitions to a Walgreen’s.
Both Stop & Shop and union representatives have provided regular updates about talks regarding a new contract. Stop & Shop said the talks were ongoing “with the support of federal mediators” and said healthcare benefits are one of its priorities. For its part, the UFCW said the chain was “still demanding major concessions” from workers as of Monday.
NHL legend Ray Bourque got caught in the middle and after facing strong criticism, the Boston Bruins legend apologized earlier this week, after he was seen crossing the picket line. Bourque said he went to Stop & Shop to address a medical condition and expressed support for the strikers. He has stated on twitter, “Being a union hockey player for 22 years, I respect Unions and the work that they do. I have a medical condition that I was preparing for this morning and mistakenly crossed the picket line at Stop & Shop. On my way out I apologized immediately. I support the employees of Stop & Shop and once my medical condition is resolved I plan on returning to stand in solidarity and will walk the picket line alongside the members of the union.