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Strike Averted as Stop & Shop Makes Deal with Union
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Workers at grocery chain Stop & Shop in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have ratified a new three-year contract, after weeks of protracted talks. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, unions representing the employees say the deal wasn’t everything they hoped for.

This new contract gives workers a bonus in the first year, and then wage raises in years two and three, totaling $1.15 an hour by the end of the contract. It also preserves workers pension benefits, while having full timers pay slightly more towards healthcare. Five different locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union were at the table for the talks. President of local 371, Brian Petronella was at the Omni Hotel in New Haven for his union’s ratification vote.

"Right now, it’s a lot more difficult to negotiate contracts anywhere, in any industry, whether it’s retail food or the auto industry or anywhere. The company frankly took advantage of the economic times."

In the last few days of talks, proposals fairly flew back and forth between the sides, especially on wages. Petronella confirms that in his feeling, something was left on the table.

"Instead of eight dollars, I wanted ten dollars, and the other nickel – another ten dollars. That really aggravates me – I wanted that extra dime."

But workers gathered at the Omni ratified the contract, and afterwards most were philosophical. Paul Wilczawski works at a Wethersfield store – he says he had faith in the union negotiators.

"Basically what it sounded like, the company was trying their business like Walmart with their health, giving them nothing, taking everything away from them, and just making them work. But I think they did pretty good in this economy."

And Barbara Godlewski, who works in Milford says there’s been a feeling of solidarity in these last weeks.

"Our company made a lot of money – in this economic time, it’s really hard. But all the people in the stores were ready to strike if we had to. We didn’t want to, but we would of if we had."

Stop & Shop said in a statement that its goal was to reach fair agreements that will allow it to continue to provide good jobs and serve its customers.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.