NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Stop & Shop employees held signs and gathered outside the main doors of the Narragansett store on Tuesday, the sixth day of a strike that shows little sign of a quick end for the large New England grocery chain.
More than 31,000 workers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut went on strike at 1 p.m. April 11 and have been on the picket line since.
It includes the Point Judith Road location. The store remained open on the first day of the strike, but some customers who came to shop turned around after the employees told them they were on strike. Others went inside to only get their prescriptions.
Except for picketers, there was little activity at the store on Tuesday, and the Stop & Shop gas station across the street on Point Judith Road was closed.
Other local grocery stores, including Belmont Market and a nearby Shaw’s in Wakefield, saw an increase in their foot traffic as a result of the strike.
Five United Food and Commercial Workers locals have been negotiating a new contract with Stop & Shop since January.
The union said the company’s proposals include drastic cuts, such as requiring full- and part-time employees to pay additional hundreds of dollars in weekly health care premiums.
It also said the company wants to reduce monthly pension benefits, phase out time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and holidays for current part-time workers and remove approximately 1,000 employees’ spouses from their family health care plan if the spouse is offered health care coverage by their employer.
“Stop & Shop’s latest proposal will drastically increase out-of-pocket health care costs, kick approximately 1,000 employees’ spouses off of their health care plan, and make it more challenging for 31,000 people to provide for themselves and their families,” the union said in a statement Tuesday. “If the company’s most recent offer becomes a reality, every working family, neighborhood, consumer and community will be hurt. We are amazed at the ever-increasing community support and appreciate all that New England is doing to help us fight for better jobs and better health care.”
On Monday, Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan sent a notice to customers about the strike.
“We apologize for the inconvenience that the strike has caused our loyal customers,” McGowan said.
“The wages, healthcare, and pension offer for all of our employees - full and part-time, across all stores - are among the best for New England retail and supermarket associates. This contract offer is no exception. That's why we are committed to continued discussions until a fair and reasonable result is achieved.”
McGowan said most stores remain open for business, with some reduced services. But the bakery, customer service, deli and seafood counters, as well as the gas stations, are closed and there is a limited meat selection, he said.