BOSTON (AP) — Stop & Shop supermarket workers and company officials reached a tentative contract agreement Sunday that includes wage increases for all associates and maintains health coverage, according to news releases from both parties. The company said the agreement ends employee strikes that started April 11 at 240 Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
The tentative three-year agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers union is subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, the company said. "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," the company 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 union said "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." It said workers were on strike to protest the company's proposed cuts to health care, take-home pay and other benefits.
"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 company limited its offerings amid the strikes. Stop & Shop President Mark McGowan said in a letter April 16 that most stores would remain open for 12 hours, seven days a week. However, he said bakery, customer service, deli, seafood counters and gas stations would not be operational.
The limited offerings impacted Passover shopping in New England, as Stop & Shop is the region's largest supermarket chain and has deep roots in the local Jewish community. A number of rabbis in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island advised their congregations not to cross picket lines to buy Jewish holiday essentials.
"The food that you're buying is the product of oppressed labor and that's not kosher," Rabbi Barbara Penzner, of Temple Hillel B'nai Torah, a reconstructionist synagogue in Boston, said last week. "Especially during Passover, when we're celebrating freedom from slavery, that's particularly egregious."
Stop & Shop is a subsidiary of Dutch supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize, with 415 stores across the Northeast. Workers at company stores in New York and New Jersey were not on strike. Multiple public figures came out in support of the workers. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren stood on a picket line April 12 in Somerville, Massachusetts, saying she would fight for the "dignity of working people."
Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, supported Stop & Shop employees in Connecticut. Former Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden met with workers outside a store in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood. Two more Democratic 2020 candidates, South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, visited stores in support of the workers as well.
A former NHL player for the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche, defenseman Ray Bourque, was caught in the middle of the strike when he was seen crossing a picket line to shop at a Massachusetts store. Bourque apologized for crossing the line and promised to walk the picket line in solidarity with Stop & Shop workers once his medical issue was resolved.