SOMERVILLE, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Bringing boxes of Dunkin Donuts with her, Sen. Elizabeth Warren visited with picketing Stop & Shop workers Friday morning as their strike across New England continued into its second day.
"The message to Stop & Shop is to be fair," Warren said. "What workers are asking for is fair wages, health care benefits, and a decent chance at a retirement—and Stop & Shop makes billions in profit, and then turns around and wants to squeeze its workers."
More than 50 workers were gathered outside the Stop & Shop on McGrath Highway in Somerville, shouting union chants like "Shame on you" and "We want a contract."
They held signs reading "Stop support, don't shop" and "Please don't cross the line," asking customers to support their cause by taking their business elsewhere.
Sen. Warren said corporate greed is keeping Stop & Shop from offering workers a fair contract.
"Those profits that Stop & Shop and its multi-national owner are able to suck up are produced by the people right here on the front lines who do the hard work, and they deserve some respect," she added.
The 31,000 employees are striking over their lack of a contract and walked off the job at 1 p.m. Thursday.
The move comes after months of tense labor negotiations between the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the employees, since February 14.
The union is unhappy about proposals to change retirement plans, health insurance, and vacation. Workers say Stop & Shop management is trying to quadruple their health insurance premiums and take away overtime for three holidays; Stop & Shop says it is disappointed by the strike, and feels it has offered workers a fair and competitive contract.
The majority of Stop & Shop's 253 New England stores will be open Friday, Jennifer Brogan, the company's Director of External Communications, told WBZ NewsRadio—though they will operate under modified hours, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
All pharmacies and banks in the stores will be open, but all Stop & Shop gas stations will remain closed.
Brogan said the stores will be manned by corporate personnel and replacement workers, and added the company is "ready in Providence and willing to return to the negotiating table."
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports