Stop & Shop workers in the United Food and Commercial Workers union will get to go back to work after over a week of striking that followed the breakdown of negotiations with management over pay, health insurance, and benefits. The workers now have a tentative three-year agreement with management that satisfies their demands, according to the Associated Press.
“Today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want,” the union said in a statement.
“Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities enjoy the best shopping experience possible and to keep Stop & Shop the number one grocery store in New England,” the union said. “The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.”
The ten day strike was the longest in the history of the company, and one of the largest private sector strikes in recent U.S. history. Over 31,000 workers at 240 Stop & Shop stores in New England participated in the strike. While workers were on strike, customer visits at stores decreased by 75 percent, according to the Boston Globe.
The breakdown in negotiations came after the company tried to institute a “two-tiered” system in which new employees were paid less and received fewer benefits than current employees, according to Bloomberg.
Dutch parent company Ahold Delhaize said they needed to implement cost-cutting measures to compete in a almost entirely non-unionized market. Strikers and labor advocates pointed out that the company made $2 billion in profit last year.
Presidential candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar visited the strikers last week, as did probable 2020 candidate Joe Biden.
Union members still need to vote on whether to accept the new agreement.
“Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the service they deserve,” Stop & Shop management said. “We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”
The company says that the tentative agreement includes “increased pay for all associates, continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates, and ongoing defined benefit pension benefits for all eligible associates.”