Union workers finalize contract with Stop & Shop

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Unionized workers at Stop & Shop supermarkets in Western Massachusetts have ratified a new three-year contract that includes higher wages and continued access to affordable health benefits, according to union and company officials.

United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1459 representing 1,300 employees, including 300 to 400 in Berkshire County, approved the collective bargaining agreement on Wednesday night. Local 1459 was the last of the five UFCW locals to approve the tentative contract reached, through federal mediation, on April 21. In all, 31,000 UFCW workers at Stop & Stop stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island went on strike April 11 for 11 days, demanding a better offer from management.

Union leaders and Stop & Shop have highlighted several key items in the new contract:

- Higher wages for full- and part-time associates, including continued Sunday premiums.

- New hires guaranteed a pathway to earn above the state's minimum wage.

- Excellent, affordable health care coverage for all eligible associates.

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- Increased pension contributions from the company.

"We were able to reach agreements that got the balance right, with strong rewards for associates plus significant, durable structural changes, particularly on health care, that will enable Stop & Shop to protect jobs, serve our customers, and compete successfully as New England's only remaining fully-unionized large supermarket company," Stop & Shop said in a statement.

Following Wednesday's vote, Local 1459 officials spoke to the effectiveness of their strike.

"New England families have sent a powerful message to corporations across the country — that when standing together, workers and customers can protect the good jobs our communities need," the local said in prepared remarks. "With growing income inequality, we are united by the shared belief that one job should be enough to provide for a family and that hardworking Americans do not have to struggle alone."

Few Stop & Shop customers, especially at the two Pittsfield stores and one in North Adams, crossed the picket lines while the stores remained opened during the strike.

Those who did enter the supermarkets found most had reduced to 12-hour days, closed the bakery, deli, seafood and meat counters, shut down their gas stations and only had self-checkout lanes open.

According to several media outlets, the Dutch company that owns Stop & Shop, Ahold Delhaize, was expected to lose up to $110 million in lost sales and spoiled product due to the strike.


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