On strike: Self-checkouts open at Milford Stop & Shop

UPDATE: Day two of a Stop & Shop strike saw both Milford Stop & Shop stores open Friday, but with only a few self-checkout registers to handle shoppers.

The two self-checkouts operating at the Silver Sands Stop & Shop were plenty to handle the crowd, which at about 2:30 p.m. amounted to one shopper.

There was at least one additional self-checkout on at the Stop & Shop near the mall, but the number of shoppers there wasn't much more than two.

Signs on the front of the stores say they are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For the most part, non-employees seemed to be supporting the striking workers, staying clear of the grocery stores and honking as they passed the lines of people holding picket signs.

Workers with the Milford Stop & Shops’ two labor unions walked off the job at 1 p.m. Thursday. The unions had voted to authorize a strike last month. The strike affects about 31,000 workers across New England, according to union officials.

Workers said they were not surprised by the strike. In a conference call the night before the strike, union leaders had informed workers that talks between the union and the company were at an impasse.

The pharmacy and bank remain open at both Stop & Shops in Milford. A woman walking past striking employees Friday smiled and told them she was just going to the pharmacy, and was not planning to shop.

The parking lot at the Milford stores remained mostly empty Thursday and Friday. Louis Arceri and Mike Albanese walked back to their car Thursday afternoon when the striking workers at the Silver Sands Stop & Shop told them the store was closed.

“I guess we’ll have to go to Shop Rite,” said Albanese, who said he worked at a Stop & Shop store before retiring years ago.

The two men shop at Stop & Shop “all the time.” Since Milford has several large grocery stores it won’t be a terrible inconvenience while the strike is on, but they said they will miss their favorite store.

A statement from Stop & Shop on Thursday said the chain has “contingency plans” to minimize disruption by the demonstrations.

“Given that negotiations with assistance of the federal mediators are continuing, we are disappointed that the UFCW chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores,” the statement said.

The corporate statement went on to say that it had proposed a “good and reasonable” offer to the local unions including pay increases, continued health care benefits and increased company contributions to the UFCW’s benefit pension fund.

“Additionally, this morning the company made several suggestions to the federal mediators to encourage further bargaining,” the statement said. “The mediators gave those proposals to the Locals late in the morning. The Locals provided no counter proposals to the mediators and simply stated they were proceeding with their plans.”

The statement concluded by saying, “Stop & Shop remains ready and available to meet with the union locals at any time. We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible that both recognize and reward the great work of our associates and enable Stop & Shop to compete effectively in the rapidly changing New England grocery market.”

The Stop & Shop employees picketing in Milford Thursday held up a piece of paper that said, “Stop & Shop aggressively trying to slash workers’ take-home pay, health care, and retirement security, which will increase turnover and dependence on self checkout and other technology.”

For customers, that means “understaffed stores, risk of longer lines at checkout, less service in the aisle,” their leaflet stated.
“Despite some slight progress being made during contract negotiations, the company is still proposing unreasonable cuts that could impact us all,” the union said on its website Saturday.
Among the cuts union members are refusing to accept are hour cutbacks, elimination of Sunday premium pay, no raises over the next three years, increased automation and decreased health and pension benefits.
One striking worker in Milford said it’s scary going on strike, but she said there are some things you just have to stand up for.

“Prince Harry said, ‘If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything’,” the striking worker said.