Stop & Shop ends essential pay, unions plan to file charges

Stephon Johnson | 7/23/2020, midnight
According to officials at the United Food and Commercials Workers, Stop & Shop “unilaterally” ended essential pay for its employees.
Supermarket/grocery store Image by Squirrel_photos from Pixabay

A grocery chain decided that its good deed was over.

According to officials at the United Food and Commercials Workers, Stop & Shop “unilaterally” ended essential pay for its employees. Workers representing 14 UFCW union in the New York, New Jersey and New England areas (representing 70,000 workers) called out the grocer for slashing wages right before the July 4 weekend, one of the busiest and highest profiting periods for the chain.

The union also called out Stop & Shop for cutting pay when employees have been working under what they consider hazardous conditions. In a joint statement all 14 unions denounced Stop & Shop’s actions.

“Let us be clear, our members didn’t sign up to be frontline heroes in a health crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen, but they rose to the call and fed America,” read the statement. “The essential pay they received during this crisis isn’t ‘appreciation’ as Stop & Shop suggests, but critical pay to ensure their families were safe amid the crisis we’re facing––a crisis that is far from over.

The AmNews contacted Stop & Shop representatives for comment but were greeted with no response.

“To treat essential workers as disposable after what they’ve done to keep our dinner tables full, at a time with such grave uncertainty about our future and when the company continues to rack up large profits is disgraceful,” continued the statement. “Our unions cannot and will not stand for any company fleecing our members––Stop & Shop needs to reinstate essential pay for our members now.”

Nationally, UFCW is challenging grocers with the help of elected officials.

Last week, the union held a news conference with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) calling for grocers and retail companies around the country to reinstate hazard pay as the COVID-19 pandemic has increased across the country.

During a press call elected officials said that Washington must act now to help all essential employees, including retail and food chain workers, get the pay they deserve.

“Grocery workers’ lives are at increased risk every day as they do critical work to keep America functioning––and they deserve robust hazard pay to account for that risk. I’m in this fight with the UFCW and Sen. Brown to demand grocery chains extend hazard pay for their essential workers,” said Sen. Warren. “The next coronavirus relief package must include my Essential Workers Bill of Rights to guarantee this and a whole suite of benefits and protections like enforceable health and safety protections, universal paid sick leave and family leave and child care.”

During the same call, UFCW officials said that there have been 93 grocery workers deaths and over 12,000 infected or exposed to the coronavirus. The union also released the results of a national poll taken of 4,000 grocery workers demonstrating the challenged they face. According to the results, almost 1 in 2 workers are more concerned about COVID-19 than they were two weeks ago, a lot of customers refuse to wear masks, half of those polled worry about bringing COVID-19 home and getting their family sick and 7 out of 10 workers said their employer isn’t enforcing mask mandates.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone said that the problem starts at the top and until they get their act together, this culture will remain intact.

“Leaders from the White House to countless retail boardrooms have simply failed to do their jobs to protect the American people and these companies still refuse to tell the truth about how many of their workers are getting sick or dying,” stated Perrone. “These CEOs have a responsibility to fight this virus and provide a safe place to shop and work. The time has come to establish not just a national mask mandate, but to guarantee hazard pay for all American frontline workers.”