PITTSFIELD — Union members are handing out leaflets to customers at 17 Stop & Shop supermarkets throughout Western Massachusetts. Workers are protesting the company's decision to discontinue the hazard pay premium all employees were receiving due to the pandemic.
Stop & Shop announced July 2 that it intended to discontinue the pay premium for all employees. In a statement, Local 1459 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union said its members are "not willing to accept the company's position."
Stop & Shop announced a 10-percent pay increase for all employees in March and extended it through May. On May 28, Stop & Shop and the UFCW released a joint statement saying the pay increase would remain in effect through July 4.
The decision to discontinue the hazard pay premium comes as Stop & Shop still requires customers and employees to wear masks and engage in social distancing. Employees must self-quarantine if they go on vacation and frequently sanitize their hands, according to Local 1459, based in Springfield.
"We are asking Stop & Shop to do what is right by compensating their employees for the risk they endure each and every day," Local 1459 said in a news release.
"Hazard pay should remain until the virus is no longer a threat. Stop & Shop continues to be a profitable company through this difficult time only because it has a brave and dedicated workforce," the union said.
In a statement, Stop & Shop said it extended its pay boost longer than nearly every other food retailer. It said it "deeply" appreciates employee efforts.
"The purpose of this temporary extra pay was to recognize our associates for their hard work during an unprecedented surge in demand and customer traffic," Stop & Shop spokesperson Maura O'Brien said in an email.
"As states continue to reopen, we are returning to pre-COVID levels of traffic and demand. We are continuing to take significant steps to keep our associates and customers safe and will continue to offer our associates a flexible leave policy and additional paid sick leave," she said.
Based in Quincy, Stop & Shop operates over 400 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.
In the Berkshires, Stop & Shop runs stores in Pittsfield and North Adams.