“What do we want? A fair contract! When do we want it? Now!”

Contract negotiations have resumed after picketers gathered at the McGrath Highway Stop & Shop in East Somerville on March 23 to rally for a fair contract.

Around 150 people gathered to support workers as they negotiate, joined by Somerville Senator Pay Jehlen, Cambridge-Somerville Representative Mike Connolly, and Ward 4 City Councilor Jesse Clingan.

This comes after union leaders representing thousands of regional Stop & Shop workers authorized their United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) leaders to call for a strike.

Workers continue to show up for shifts, however, as negotiations continue.

“I worked at Stop and Shop part time as a checker in 2016. I needed the second job in order to provide for my family. That’s all these folks are trying to do is get a fair contract so they can support their families,” Clingan said. “The workers are the ones that make a store like Stop and Shop great, not some company over seas making decisions based on the bottom line. Meanwhile it’s the customers that suffer and the workers who are forced to fight for scraps while the parent company Ahold takes in profits.”

Gillian Mason, co-Executive Director of Jamaica Plain-based Jobs for Justice, helped to organize the rally.

“We are devoted to supporting the workers throughout their campaign until they get the contract they deserve,” she said.

Jobs for Justice is a coalition organization with 160 member organizations whose goal is to bring together people to talk about common interests.

“We bring communities and unions together to talk about the importance of good jobs in the community,” she said. “Our members are invested in making sure workers, like the Stop & Shop workers, have good jobs – jobs that stay in our communities – and corporations don’t lower our standards.”

Community members, organizations, and union allies were all in attendance. UFCW marched with Somerville Stands Together, and other organizations such as the Interfaith Worker Justice, Pride at Work, and the Jewish Labor Committee.

“The idea is to show the company that what’s happening at Stop & Shop is not just happening inside their stores – it’s a larger conversation about jobs and exploitation of workers throughout our community,” Mason said. “People are paying attention and care about our workers.”

The group mostly rallied outside of the store, but also took a quick march through the store near the end of the event.

“The community rally was tremendously positive and joyous,” Mason said. “We had a marching band and folk singers, and other customers we spoke to were receptive to the message and standing behind workers. Ordinary people think workers deserve a fair shake.”

Clingan said he will continue to show up to support these workers.

“I was there in support of the workers. To show them that I stand with them. I was there to tell them that I will join them on the picket line and I certainly would never cross it,” he said. “Stop & Shop is one of many fights taking place all over the area In the name of profits before people. We should not stand for this as a community. I certainly won’t.”

Source: Wicked Local Somerville