Thursday, April 29, 2010

Health benefits for all except Shaw's?

If you've been to Shaw's in Twin Cities Plaza lately, you've seen the picketers handing out Stop & Shop circulars in the parking lot. That's because on March 7, workers at Shaw's warehouse in Methuen went on strike, protesting cuts in wages and health benefits. According to a report from WBZ news, "United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791 voted overwhelmingly, 288 to 8," to reject the contract offered by Shaw's, which would cut health care benefits and result in significant pay cuts. Now, as the strike nears the 2 month mark, Supervalu, who owns both Shaw's and Star Market, has "terminated the workers' health benefits, ignoring the fact that many of these workers have young children with serious medical conditions, and some workers have spouses with serious issues such as risky advanced pregnancy. Further, the company is advertising for and hiring permanent striker replacements," as reported by MarketWatch.

I can see the impact of the strike in the reduced number of cars in the parking lot of Shaw's in Porter Square, even though there are no picketers at that location. It heartens me that Somerville and Cambridge support the workers and are willing to deal with the inconvenience of shopping elsewhere in order to reinforce the message being sent by the strikers. In the same MarketWatch article quoted above, it's reported that workers at other Supervalu subsidiaries in four states and representing 61,000 members, are "mobilizing to support" the 300 striking Shaw's workers.

Refusing to shop at Shaw's and choosing Market Basket or Stop & Shop instead is one way to help force Supervalu to provide adequate health care benefits for its employees. When a strike like this is successful, it also sends a message to other employers that refusing to provide these benefits is not acceptable and will have consequences that affect the bottom line. There will be a rally tonight, Thursday April 29, at the Porter Square Shaw's from 5:00 to 6:30 if you want to come out and show support in person. Also, there are two Facebook group you can join to keep up with news of the dispute, We Support the Shaws Methuen Distribution Center and Justice at Shaw's.

As an unexpected result, I've discovered that the Stop & Shop up on Route 28 is really a better store in many ways than Shaw's. The prices are lower, it's never crowded, even on the weekend, and there's a Dunkin' Donuts inside the store so you can load up on caffeine for serious grocery shopping. At Stop & Shop, March 7 was the day a contract was ratified with five local unions after a strike over wages and benefits (WBZ News, March 7, 2010).


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