Stop & Shop employees got a better contract from the 10-day strike, while the company lost millions of dollars.
More than 30,000 Stop & Shop supermarket employees in the Northeast are returning to work after striking a deal, bringing an end to the largest private sector strike in years.
On Sunday evening, representatives from the United Food & Commercial Workers Union International said they had agreed on a tentative three-year contract with the company. The deal would keep employee health care and retirement benefits intact, provide wage increases instead of bonuses, and keep time-and-a-half pay for current employees who work on Sunday.
“Today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want — good jobs, affordable health care, a better wage, and to be treated right by the company they made a success,” the union said in a statementreleased Sunday.
Stop & Shop posted an update on its website, saying the company is glad to see employees return to work, and that its top priority is to restock empty supermarkets.
The new contract, which still requires approval from union members, ends a 10-day strike at hundreds of Stop & Shop stores in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Some stores had to close during the stoppage, while others were left with empty shelves and few customers. Cashiers and deli workers walked off the job on April 11 at 240 stores, protesting the company’s effort to slash their pay by hiking health insurance premiums and lowering pension benefits for new employees.
The strike had overwhelming local support, with many customers refusing to cross picket lines and bringing meals to workers protesting outside the stores.
In four days, more than 1,000 people donated to a hardship fund for striking workers, who weren’t getting paid during the stoppage. As of Monday, they had raised $54,000. The strike even captured attention from 2020 presidential contenders like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“The emotional ride through these last 11 days has been tremendous,” said one employee early Monday in a video recorded outside a Stop & Shop in Wallingford, Connecticut, which the union shared on Facebook. “The only thing that kept us going was the customers stopping, waiving, honking, beeping, bringing us food … thank you.”
The response echoes the support for public school teachers who launched major strikes across the country in 2018 to protest low pay. It also suggests the labor unrest, which swept across the US last year, is nowhere close to dying down.