As seen in the Unity: Spring 2019 – President’s Report. See past copies of the Unity here.
Union workers in the Northeast and across the country scored a major victory with the successful Stop & Shop strike in April.
More than 31,000 UFCW members across 240 stores took a stand in the name of fairness and respect when they walked picket lines for an unprecedented 11 days in April. These workers had the support of their union brothers and sisters, locally and from coast to coast. (For coverage of Local 152’s participation in the strike, see pages 1–3 of this issue of Unity.) They also drew vocal support from news commentators, political leaders and clergy.
At a rally in Boston, former Vice President Joe Biden said he was “sick and tired of the way everybody’s being treated” and that the middle class needed to “take this country back.”
At another rally, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren urged shoppers to support the workers. “Understand that people on the picket line are not just fighting for their families,” she said. “They’re fighting for all our families. They’re fighting for basic fairness and equality in this country.”
The message was heard loud and clear by the public.
In every city and town in the affected areas, grocery shoppers refused to cross the picket lines. They would not turn their backs on their friends and neighbors who worked in the stores — the people who bagged their groceries, cut their meat and fish, arranged their flowers and kept their produce fresh.
We know these shoppers because we have them in our stores, too. Our customers value the hard work of Local 152 members and, should a similar situation ever arise in our communities, they will show their appreciation even if it causes them some inconvenience.
The effect of the public’s support for the New England supermarket workers was immediate. Stop & Shop stores were empty during the strike — devoid of shoppers and product. Many locations didn’t even try to continue operations and simply shut down. The company was estimated to have lost $10 million per day.
The Boston Globe called the New England dispute “one of the most effective strikes in recent memory,” one that was “built on a growing hunger for social justice.”
“What we’re seeing is an increasing resistance to the fundamental unfairness of a system that’s so skewed both economically and politically to the wealthy,” Harvard Law School labor professor Benjamin Sachs told the Globe.
Tom Juravich, a labor studies professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, added that unions are finding a “renewed zeal” recently, “especially as the stock market hits record highs and average Americans realize they aren’t sharing in the wealth.”
The success of the strike led to a strong new contract that Stop & Shop workers ratified in early May. Employers in Local 152’s jurisdiction and across the country were watching these events closely, and I have no doubt they understood the lesson.
A lesson our membership lives and breathes every day: There is strength in unity!
— President Brian String