Sticking to the Union


Over 30,000 Stop & Shop employees began to strike yesterday afternoon after months of negotiation failed to address demands. The main issues are health care and retirement benefits. Stop & Shop is raising health insurance premiums, offering lower pension benefits to new hires, and seeking to replace even more jobs with self-serve automated check out and roaming robots wheeling around the store (I’ve seen these, they are creepy). The union wants affordable health care premiums,the same retirement benefits for new hires as the former hires enjoy, and job protection from automation. If you think the workers and their union, United Food & Commercial Workers, are asking for too much, consider:

According to Indeed.com, Stop & Shop hourly wages range from $9.28 per hour to $16.43 per hour. The average annual salary at Stop & Shop ranges from $16,000 to $62,000 per year.

According to their own annual report, the parent company of Stop & Shop, Dutch supermarket corporation Ahold Delhaize, had over $70 billion in sales in 2018.The union claims they had a U.S. tax cut of $225 million in 2017. Market Watch reports they posted net sales of $11 billion in the U.S. alone in 2018. Their fourth quarter profit, ending Dec. 31, 2018 was $ 588 million.

Please support the strikers by boycotting Stop & Shop during the strike. There is another grocery store to shop at during the strike. It might be inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as needing to strike to have your employer pay and play fair. Your inconvenience is solidarity with theirs as they bear the brunt of standing up for basic wage and benefit justice. The practice of justice is a spiritual practice. A 2018 Princeton study by Henry S. Faber et al showed that income inequality in America increases when unions are weaker and income inequality lessens when unions are strong. Unions are responsible for the weekend, the 8-hour work day, paid vacation time, and other workplace improvements that we have taken for granted and that have been eroding over the past decades as unions have weakened. My father was active in his union as a teacher and college professor. I am a union supporter through and through. It’s not only an economic issue, but a spiritual one. We are all in this together.

Stop & Shop says that in order to be competitive with non-unionized supermarkets, they need to control costs and this is why they are holding fast to refusing the strikers’ demands. This is an age old tactic – tell the workers it is their union and their demands that are hurting profitability and imply they are asking for too much because other similar workers don’t get what the union is asking for. We see this all the time.

Teachers, police, firefighters, nurses and others will have their union demands for fair wages and benefits used as weapons against them by governments, companies, school districts and others who will claim that their bargaining requests are too extravagant, too costly, and far more than the average worker gets. This argument is made in order to pit some working people against other working people. Yet this common argument puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Don’t be against the union because they are asking for fair payment and benefits in excess of what your employer gives you. Instead ask why your employer isn’t providing the same fair wages and benefits. Our enemy is not other working people and poor people, our enemy is the person, company, corporation, government, and politician that tells us our economic problems are caused by other working people and poor people. Our economic problems are caused by the people who believe it’s fair and just for people, companies, and corporations to accumulate ever increasing wealth and profits while people are sick, hungry, homeless, and under educated. We lose our jobs to automation and to moving business to places in the world where there is little, if any, law protecting workers and regulating wages.

This issue is yours. It is a spiritual as well as a political and economic battle. As Jason Isbel sings, “There’s no such thing as someone else’s war.” We are all in this together and we are called to stand with the oppressed against the oppressor and the poor against the acceptance of income inequality. Don’t fall for the con of the man with the full refrigerator telling you to guard your daily ration against the rabble who want to steal it.

What can you do besides avoiding stopping and shopping? There are five locals involved in the union strike so some will be able to hold out longer than others.

Consider a financial donation to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and ask them to send it to support locals on strike against Stop & Shop.

Contact the local and ask what help they need. Find your local chapter of UFCW here.

If there’s a Stop & Shop near you with workers on a picket line, stop by and tell them you support them. Congratulate them and thank them for their courage. Bring them coffee and water and bagels and carrot sticks and orange slices. Ask them about their individual stories. Ask if there’s anything you can do.

Contact Stop & Shop and tell them you support the strikers and will not be shopping there until they settle the strike.

“We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union.” – The Constitution of the United States of America.

“You can’t be anti-union and pro-American at the same time.” – Arlo Guthrie

One more time…. “O you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union!”

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