Hundreds of striking Stop & Shop workers and friends in the labor community received a pep talk last Thursday (April 18) from former Vice President Joe Biden, who visited Dorchester to lend his support to the workers fighting proposed reductions in health care and retirement benefits.
Biden, a Delaware Democrat and likely presidential candidate, headlined a spirited rally outside the South Bay Center Stop & Shop where striking workers marched in a picket line outside the grocery store. Hundreds of supporters, including many from other unions, gathered to hear from prominent labor and political leaders.
On Sunday, the company and union announced that they had come to a tentative agreement and employees returned to work on Monday at many stores.
Arriving under a light rain more than an hour into the rally, Biden spoke from the back of a Teamsters Local 25 flatbed, telling the pro-union crowd that he’s seen examples across the country of workers not being treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
“I know you’re used to hearing political speeches and I’m a politician, I get it. But this is way beyond that, guys. This is way beyond that,” Biden said. “This is wrong. This is morally wrong, what’s going on around this country, and I’ve had enough of it. I’m sick of it. And so are you.”
Biden faulted the parent company of Stop & Shop, Ahold Delhaize, for seeking concessions from workers after netting nearly $4 billion in profits over two years and getting what he said was a $250 million tax cut “through that scam that the president put through.”
He also questioned the move by the company to buy back billions worth of stock to increase the value of remaining shares to the benefit of shareholders and top executives.
“Let me get something straight with you all. Wall Street bankers and CEOs did not build America. You built America,” Biden said. “Middle-class people built America.”
“And you know who built the middle class? Unions,” Biden said.
The rally at the tail end of school-vacation week also drew a crowd of state lawmakers, including Sens. Nick Collins, Marc Pacheco and Walter Timilty, and Reps. Claire Cronin, John Rogers, Stephan Hay, David Robertson, Patrick Kearney, Elizabeth Malia, David Biele, Michelle DuBois and Tommy Vitolo.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh introduced Biden at the rally that also included speeches from labor leaders like AFL-CIO of Massachusetts President Steve Tolman and officeholders like State Treasurer Deb Goldberg.