Dozens of Stop & Shop employees braved the rain and chill Friday morning, picketing outside the Shelton location off Bridgeport Avenue Friday — two day of the employee strike.
Stop & Shop employees walked out of stores across New England Thursday, including locations in Shelton, Trumbull, Black Rock, Stratford, Norwalk, Stamford, Hamden, Cheshire and Branford, after failing to resolve a contract impasse.
Stores in numerous cities and towns have closed while the pharmacies in those locations remain open. The stores turned away shoppers in numerous locations after the employees walked out.
Members of Local 371 and Local 919 picketing near parking lot and plaza entrances at multiple store locations have been met with supportive honks from drivers.
Michael Lynch, a 37-year veteran of Stop & Shop, said he hopes for a quick resolution but is prepared for a long strike. As does Teri Smith, a 25-year Stop & Shop employee, who was noticeably emotional about the situation, while offering her thanks to all those who have honked their car horn or waved in support of their strike.
The parking lot at Shelton’s Stop & Shop locations sat uncharacteristically empty Friday morning, as dozens of workers crowded outside with picket signs reading “Bargaining in Bad Faith.”
More than 600 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371, which represents workers in much of Connecticut and headquartered in Westport, voted in early March to strike as contract negotiations with the grocery chain stalled.
“Despite some slight progress being made during contract negotiations, the company is still proposing unreasonable cuts that could impact us all,” the union said on its website Saturday.
Among the cuts union members are refusing to accept are hour cutbacks, elimination of Sunday premium pay, no raises over the next three years, increased automation and decreased health and pension benefits.
The grocery giant employs more than 31,000 associates throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The company operates 92 stores in Connecticut alone.
A statement from Stop & Shop Thursday said the chain has “contingency plans” to minimize disruption by the demonstrations.
“Given that negotiations with assistance of the federal mediators are continuing, we are disappointed that the UFCW chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores,” the statement said.
Employees said their customers would be loyal, though, and most wouldn’t cross the picket line to shop.
The corporate statement went on to say that it had proposed a “good and reasonable” offer to the local unions including pay increases, continued health care benefits and increased company contributions to the UFCW’s benefit pension fund.
“Additionally, this morning the company made several suggestions to the federal mediators to encourage further bargaining,” the statement said. “The mediators gave those proposals to the Locals late in the morning. The Locals provided no counter proposals to the mediators and simply stated they were proceeding with their plans.”
The statement concluded by saying, “Stop & Shop remains ready and available to meet with the union locals at any time. We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible that both recognize and reward the great work of our associates and enable Stop & Shop to compete effectively in the rapidly changing New England grocery market.”
Workers at the Stop & Shop held signs with information about the strike. One of them was handing out Attorney General William Tong announced he would stand with striking workers outside the Stop & Shop in Southington Thursday evening and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said she stood in solidarity with the workers.
“UFCW members in Connecticut and across the region help families put food on the table and keep our communities strong,” she said in a statement. “In return, they deserve a living wage, health care benefits, and retirement security for their hard work — not cuts to their compensation while Stop & Shop posts strong profits quarter after quarter.”
Picketers said they were expecting the walk-out might be a lengthy one, and union members in other towns said they would strike for as long as it takes to get a fair contract.
Randi Weiner, Luther Turmelle, Humberto Juarez, Ignacio Laguarda, Katrina Koerting, Alex Souleand and Tara O’Neill contributed to this story.