More than 600 Stop & Shop employees unanimously voted Wednesday night to go on strike as contract negotiations with the grocery giant stalled.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371 in Westport, which represents workers in much of Connecticut, including Trumbull, authorized a strike during a special meeting in Cromwell Wednesday, in which they also voted to reject Stop & Shop’s proposed contract. The other union local that represents workers at the Trumbull store, the 919, will meet Sunday to discuss a similar strike authorization.
With the vote, a strike of Stop & Shop employees can be called at any time. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean a strike will take place.
The decision came a day before contract negotiations were set to resume in Providence, Rhode Island.
The contract between Stop & Shop and five United Food and Commercial Workers local unions expired on Feb. 23. The following afternoon, UFCW Local 1445 in Boston voted “overwhelmingly” to authorize a strike, said Amy Ritter, UFCW spokeswoman.
The standoff between the grocer and its workers centers on the most recent contract offer, which includes hour cutbacks, elimination of Sunday premium pay, no raises over the next three years, increased automation and decreased health and pension benefits.
This, the union argues, comes at a time when the corporation’s parent company, the Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize, is reporting more than $2 billion in profit over the last year.
“But at the same time, the company is proposing tens of millions of dollars in cuts to workers take home pay and benefits,” the union wrote on its Facebook page. “These proposals would hurt our communities.”
Stop & Shop has more than two dozen stores located in southwestern Connecticut. The workers union represents about 98% of store employees, and there are about 120 employees per store.
More than 31,000 Stop & Shop employees in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island belong to the UFCW, according to Jennifer Brogan, a spokesperson for Stop & Shop.
A strike could impact all Stop & Shop stores in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to Ritter. There is a compensation plan in place for union members, Ritter said, if a strike is called — though the details of that plan will change depending on the state and what type of strike is called for.
Despite this latest development, Stop & Shop remains confident that a deal will be reached between the two parties.
“We renegotiate contracts with our local unions every three years and have done so successfully each time historically. We see no reason this year will be any different,” Brogan said. “We are working hard to reach strong new contracts that will continue to provide highly competitive wages, comprehensive health care coverage and, unlike any other area food retailers, a defined benefit pension.”
Employees of the grocery chain last walked off the job 30 years ago this month, with the stoppage lasting less than a day.
Stop & Shop told Hearst Connecticut Media last week that it has plans in place in case of a strike.
“Should a union strike or job action occur, we have plans in place to minimize interruption to our store operations so that our customers can continue to count on Stop & Shop,” Brogan said.
Amanda Cuda and Alex Soule contributed to this story