Morale high among Westport workers a week into strike
WESTPORT — Morale was high among Stop & Shop employees as the strike entered its seventh day.
“We realize we’re in this for the long haul and we’re joining together as a union and going to get through it. We’re getting stronger every day,” store produce manager John Merritt said outside the store around noon on Wednesday. “The big thing is the community’s support is a lot greater than we thought it was going to be.”
Fellow employee Colin O’Brien said customers have brought the striking workers pizza and doughnuts for support.
Cars honked in support as workers lined the Post Road with signs and posters about the strike.
“It’s like a bonding moment for everyone in the store,” Stop &Shop clerk Pat Duphiney said.
Despite the growing connection among employees, however, Duphiney said the workers are tired and ready to settle.
In total, 31,000 Stop & Shop workers were on strike as of April 11 in protest of increases to out-of-pocket health care costs and cuts to workers pensions, among other concerns.
Stop & Shop’s parent company, Ahold Delhaize, saw over $2 billion in profits last year and received a U.S. tax cut of $225 million in 2017. The company is claiming the proposed cuts are necessary but is refusing to provide financial information to verify that claim.
Workers are required by the union to strike outside the store when they would previously have been on shift at Stop & Shop, and Duphiney said while she’s off tomorow, she still plans to attend the strike to support her colleagues.
Support has also arrived from out-of-town affiliates of the Stop & Shop employees’ parent union, the United Food and Commercial Workers.
John Kamlowsky is a local UFCW representative based in Houston and was outside the Westport shop with the workers on Wednesday. Kamlowsky arrived in Connecticut on Tuesday and said he’s here to help the strikers however he can, such as bringing extra flyers and signs as needed.
On Thursday, striking workers will receive some high-profile support from former Vice President Joe Biden, who plans to speak at a rally at a Stop & Shop in Dorchester, Mass.
“Whatever happens here, will have a ripple effect across the country so we’re here to show our support because whatever happens here will domino,” Kamlowsky said.
Reporting contributed by Jim Shay
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