New England supermarket chain workers strike, forcing hundreds of stores to close

Roughly 31,000 workers across New England walked off work Thursday after negotiations with Stop & Shop over a new contract broke down.

The Hartford Courant reported that most of hundreds of Stop & Shops in the region shut down, but were open by early evening.

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The workers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, who are represented by five locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, have reportedly been working without a contract since late February.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, Stop & Shop said negotiations are continuing and the company was “disappointed that the UFCW chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores.”

“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.”

According to the Courant, the unions are concerned about proposed cuts in health care and retirement benefits in the current offer.

Jeff Bollen, the president of UFCW Local 1445, said in a video posted on the union’s website that the two sides were “still miles apart” and union members were “done playing games.”

“This company has shown us they do not respect you. They do not respect the hard work you do every day. And we’re done talking,” Bollen said.

“Start up the picket lines, stay strong, stay united, talk to the customers. We’re going to stay until we win.”