Strike by Stop & Shop workers hits Neponset, South Bay stores

Striking employees walk the walk at the Freeport Street Stop & Shop on Friday. Yukun Zhang photo

The Stop & Shop supermarket on Morrissey Boulevard has closed and business has slowed to a trickle at the company’s South Bay store this week after a long-simmering labor dispute turned into a full-blown strike last week by tens of thousands of workers at 240 stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

On Friday, striking workers at the South Bay Stop & Shop held signs and chanted on a picket line, advising passersby about what was going on.

“Please don’t shop here! Stop & Shop workers are on strike!” some cried out. “Support your community, support the workers, not the billionaires!”
Still, some customers still went into the market to do their shopping.

The South Bay store remains open for business despite the 300 part-timers and 50 full-timers who are on strike calling for contracts with better wages, raises, and equity in health care and pension contributions.

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Stop & Shop workers moved their efforts outside the South Bay store last Friday— which was the second day of a strike that has caused turmoil at the supermarket chain, including the temporary closure of the other Dorchester store on Freeport Street and Morrissey Boulevard. Yukun Zhang photo

The Stop & Shop in Neponset, however, closed after about 45 workers left to go on strike on Friday.

Dave Lapia, a union steward and strike captain at the South Bay store, said the company is cutting workers’ Sunday overtime, increasing health care costs, and lowering pension contributions. New workers, he said, will get lower Sunday pay and fewer paid holidays and sick days.

Representatives from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Stop & Shop both said that negotiations are ongoing, but neither party offered additional comment.

A statement for Stop & Shop provided by Jenn Brogan, its director of external communications, said that for its part, the company is offering pay increases for all associates, with no change in Sunday premium for full-time and current part-time associates. It also said that there will be no changes in paid time off or holidays for current associates, and that the company would pay at least 92 percent of health premiums for family coverage and 88 percent of individual coverage.

Brogan said that temporary workers and corporate personnel are filling in the positions at stores that are open, and that pharmacies and banks are open even in stores that are closed.

“We give half of our lives to this company and this is how they treat us now,” Henrique Dasilva, who has worked for Stop & Shop for 22 years in different branches across Boston, told the Reporter on Friday. “They make all their money, and now we are here in the cold trying to work something out. I hope it does work, and we are going to stay here as long as we can, every day.”

Donald Moore, a shop steward and strike captain at the Freeport Street store, said the workers will stay out until they get better contracts. “We hope this will end very soon so we can get back to work. All we want is a fair contract for our employees,” he said.

The labor action is likely to become even more intense and potentially national in scope this week, as former Vice President Joe Biden has announced plans to attend a rally in support of the union workers at the South Bay store at 2 p.m. on Thursday (April 18). Mayor Martin Walsh is also expected to attend.