A union representing Stop & Shop employees from several area towns unanimously voted Sunday to reject the employer’s latest contract proposal and authorize a strike.
More than 700 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 919 voted to authorize the strike during a meeting Sunday in Hartford. UFCW Local 919 is headquartered in Farmington and represents Stop & Shop employees in Meriden, Berlin, Cheshire, and Wallingford.
The vote means a strike of employees can be called but isn’t necessarily guaranteed to take place. Contract negotiations are expected to resume Wednesday and Thursday.
In a letter sent to union members Monday, president Mark A. Espinosa urged employees to continue working as scheduled unless a strike is called.
“Remember, you have authorized your union leadership to threaten and call for a strike when it’s deemed absolutely necessary,” Espinosa’s letter said. “Until then, continue to report for your shifts as scheduled. Continue to work hard for your employers, and most importantly, continue to service your customers as you do so well daily, for it is their support we need also!”
The contract between Stop & Shop and five United Food and Commercial Workers local unions expired on Feb. 23. Negotiation sticking points have included cutbacks in hours, elimination of Sunday premium pay, decreased health and pension benefits and increased automation, according to a union update to members.
In a statement Monday, UFCW said the company’s latest contract proposal would “severely” cut health care and retirement benefits.
“The company is trying to put many of its workers in a position now where they have to choose between going to work sick or not being able to pay their bills,” the statement said.
Stop & Shop said it is “the only large fully unionized supermarket remaining in New England, and our full-time associates are among the industry’s highest paid.”
"A fair, new agreement also must reflect the rapid changes and increasing competition that are reshaping our industry," the company said in a statement on its website. The chain said it also “remains committed to working diligently and in good faith with the union locals to reach new agreements.”
The vote by Local 919 follows a similar vote by Westport-based UFCW Local 371 last week. In total, five unions representing more than 31,000 employees in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have voted to authorize a strike.
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