NORTH HAVEN - The Stop & Shop employee strike hit day 5 Monday and some employees believe the coming holiday weekend, and the potential for loss of a great amount of revenue, will cause the company to get serious at the negotiation table.
Of course, employees said wages, health insurance and pensions are the reasons they’ve walked out. Their contract expired February 23.
Hello, we are on strike,” said Jackie Zampaglione, the Stop & Shop florist department manager in North Haven, as a customer was walking into the store.
“We ask that you honor our picket line.”
“Between wages, healthcare, pension, you name it and we really just want a fair deal,” said Joe Jarmie, who’s worked for the company for over 30 years.
Stop & Shop said it is offering pay increases for all unionized employees. Still, it’s not enough according to department manager in North Haven.
“I’ve got a worker with me who’s got 28 years and he makes $16.80 an hour,” said Bob Kowelski, the meat department manager in that store.
The company pension fund contributions would increase – at no cost to employees - according to Stop & Shop. Employees said they’re not at liberty to discuss specifics of the contract negotiations and we have not heard back from union representatives.
There has not yet been a response from the union in regards to Stop and Shop's newest proposal.
“I fully support them,” said Lynn Acquarulo, a customer, after coming out of the store, where she picked up a prescription. “I shopped at the Big Y yesterday and Walmart just to avoid coming to Stop & Shop.”
On Sunday, typically the busiest shopping day of the week, the North Haven store only had five customers, union members said. And, they salute the North Haven community for being supportive of their cause.
“I mean on Friday I think it was we had 70 boxes of Joe, like 40 dozen donuts,” Jarmie said. “We’ve had people hand us money to go buy all the employees lunch.”
“We’ve had nurses that have pulled in and brought us in sunblock,” said Kowelski. “They’re bringing us cough drops for when it’s cold out.”
Stop & Shop said employees health care premiums would remain well below national averages and increase only $2.00 to $4.00 per week in each year of the new deal.
Some 31,000 Stop & Shop employees remain out on strike impacting families in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Jackie Zampaglione and her daughter, Brittney, work together in the florist department.
“And then, my father is a grocery manager in Meriden and my uncle is a grocery manager in Milford,” says Brittney Zampaglione.
That means four family members are out on strike.
“We take care of my grandmother, as well,” she said. “So all the bills and everything we pay for them as well.”
She said her dad is due to retire in about three years.
The Stop & Shop Strike also impacts vendors.
“I work for a food broker and we represent an item in the store where I come in and I packed the item out,” said Peggy Gay of Cheshire.
Essentially, she stocks the shelves with the product her company represents in nine Stop & Shop stores that are her accounts.
“Of course, the orders haven’t been coming in, so, there really isn’t anything I can do,” said Gay.
If there’s no need for more of her product and she’s not in and out of the stores, she doesn’t get paid because she’s an hourly employee. However, she doesn’t want to cross the picket line.
“I mean, like the bread guys and the potato chip guys and the soda guys, they have all other accounts. I just have Stop & Shops,” she said
Bottom line: She said she, her husband and their three children cannot go any longer than the rest of the week without her receiving a paycheck.
The following are statements issued by Stop & Shop and Connecticut’s congressional delegation in response to the strike.