Editorial: People Over Profits

2020 has made us stronger and as we head into the latter half of the year, we are preparing to confront the challenges that lay ahead. We have learned how to be more careful with our health and safety and to speak up when someone is not being careful or doing the right thing around us. For those of us who got sick or unfortunately suffered a loss, we were reminded again of just how precious life is. Basically, we have learned to fight through adversity, and to protect ourselves and our families better. We have faced obstacles over and over this year and have found a way to overcome each one. This was not achieved by sitting idly by, but was by being proactive and pushing back to get the results we needed.

We are about to face another extremely difficult challenge soon. No, it won’t threaten your life, but it will definitely threaten your livelihood.

If you have been paying attention over that past year and a half, you have noticed that Stop & Shop has quietly, but actively, tried to diminish the working conditions of its employees. They continually introduce automation and technology designed to wear your jobs away. They throw birthday parties for robots and don’t even try to acknowledge its employees’ birthdays. They discontinued your Hazard Pay right in the middle of the pandemic and way before other, significantly less wealthy companies in our area did. They provoked five unions, just like ours, in the Company’s home area of New England, and forced them to go on strike for what they believed they deserved.

Last year more than 30,000 Stop & Shop employees in over 240 stores hit the streets to show their families, their coworkers, their customers, their communities, and especially their company that they should expect more from them. Just a couple months before that, Stop & Shop’s parent company reported profits of more than $2 billion dollars, all the while looking for its hourly associates to pay more out of their paychecks for their own healthcare. How does that make sense to anyone? Well, it definitely makes some cents for those at the top, 200 billion cents to be exact! But what does that do for the hard-working people who have physically built and sustained this company for decades? What about those that wake up early every morning so they can prepare all the fresh products the customers need the moment your store opens for business? What about the people who miss dinner with their family and go to sleep late at night because someone must try and keep up conditions throughout that second shift? What about those that had to learn to sleep during the day just so they can replenish the shelves with the truckloads of product that roll in every night? Where is their share of the billions in profit? Nobody I know can seem to find it. Apparently, Stop & Shop has once again put profits over people.

It’s time that Local 1500 members get together and question their company about how they can justify such huge profits without their due reward. Remember, that $2 billion dollars is what is left after all of the bills are paid, including your salaries! Yet during every negotiating session they will still look for ways to get you to give back to them. Why, to make them even richer? We all know your work environment has gotten much more dangerous since your company challenged those 30,000 members of the New England Locals. We cannot continue to literally risk our lives day in and day out, reporting to work, regardless of what health crisis plagues us while not being recognized properly for it. The days of you just being seen as a simple supermarket worker are over. You are and have proven to be a critical link in our economy’s infrastructure and we stand ready to take your company on if they show up to the bargaining table with anything else in mind.

It is time for your company to really show you what you mean to them.  There is only one way for them to do that…show up at negotiations with a package that makes your lives better and a willingness to make your workplaces safer.  All they need to do is offer you the wage and benefit increases you have earned, rather than looking to take things away.  And they need to guarantee that the safety of its workers, the controlling of its customers and the sanitation of your workplaces will be more important priorities to them than a one-line uniform policy.

So Stop & Shop, just as the industry in our region was watching when you decided to stop appreciating your front line heroes and end their Hazard Pay before everyone else did, we will be watching and waiting to see which Stop & Shop shows up later this year to the bargaining table.  Will it be a company that truly appreciates those employees that selflessly risked their own and their families’ lives, by keeping them open for business and very profitable?  Or will it be the company that comes in looking for concessions, give backs, and even more out-of-pocket expense off the backs of the people that helped make you your billions in profits?  Either way, the more than 7,200 of your employees that our Union is privileged to represent will be ready and waiting.  With all of the Northeast and especially New England watching, they will be prepared to do it the easy way or the hard way.  Either way, just like everything else that 2020 has thrown at them, they will overcome, and they will succeed.

To all of our members, we are powerful together. Now is the time for your company to understand and respect that you will not tolerate their participation in corporate greed. Let’s end 2020 with a loud P.O.P. and finally have your company put their People Over Profits!

Joseph D. Waddy – Executive Vice President/Recorder

The Register August 2020