According to Union officials, the Stop & Shop bargaining team has consistently proposed wage freezes for the nearly two years that the contract has been expired, significant reductions in pension benefits, large scale cuts to the hours of Part-Time workers, and major changes to the members’ healthcare coverage that would result in exorbitant out-of-pocket costs. As part of their healthcare benefits package, Stop & Shop has also proposed to totally eliminate Part-Time workers from being eligible for coverage.
In contrast, the Union has offered frozen healthcare costs, frozen pension costs, fair wage increases for the last two years, no changes in any conditions, and to reasonably negotiate the impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act. “We are not in the business of reducing workers’ hours,” stated Richard Abondolo, President of UFCW Local 342. He continued, “The company is not seriously considering the large numbers of Part-Time employees who work in these stores and the power that they maintain by being the flexible workforce that contributes to the company’s success.” “We will not allow our Part-Time members to be punished or become the scapegoat for healthcare reform,” Abondolo said.
Union leaders, as well as the membership, have been patient in their efforts to bargain in good faith and continue to serve their loyal customers every day, but Stop & Shop is running out of time. “We took a patient approach to bargaining, and tried to be reasonable because there are a lot of unsettled issues out there, but Stop & Shop has refused to work with us,” said Kate Meckler, the Union’s Director of Communications. “The leadership is upset, the membership is fed up, and everybody’s ready to take action,” she stated.
As a result of Stop & Shop’s refusal to compromise fairly on a number of contractual issues, UFCW Local 342 will be holding a strike vote for its Meat, Seafood, and Deli Department members on Friday. If the members vote “yes” to a strike, as the Union leadership expects, job actions could take place. “All the other UFCW Local Unions in our area have pledged support, and the leadership of Local 342 will continue to try to get a fair contract without job actions, but if the company won’t be reasonable, then we are confident our members will do what is necessary,” Meckler said.