UFCW locals argue that front-line workers still need appreciation pay, since the pandemic isn't over yet.
Fourteen United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local unions in New York, New Jersey and New England, collectively representing 70,000 Stop & Shop grocery workers, have condemned the company’s cessation of “appreciation pay” to front-line associates during the coronavirus crisis, and have revealed their intention to file charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Stop & Shop stopped the payments on July 4, arousing the ire of UFCW and Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts. According to the former, the grocer “walked away from negotiating with the 14 Local UFCW unions and unilaterally … ended the essential pay they need to continue to work under hazardous conditions amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and our members also continue to practice regimented disinfection protocols just to go to work every day and ensure their families are safe when they return,” the local presidents noted in a statement. “During the pandemic, their jobs have fundamentally changed. They are more stressful and more physically demanding. The emotional and mental labor expended by our members hasn’t lifted, and their essential pay shouldn’t, either.”
Demanding that the retailer “reinstate essential pay for our members now,” the presidents contended that “Stop & Shop abjectly refused every possible solution presented by our collective unions, in violation of our members’ rights under our respective collective bargaining agreements, and we will be filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board.”
The officials who signed on to the statement were Frank Deriso, UFCW Local 1; Brian String, UFCW Local 152; Richard Abondolo, UFCW Local 342; Tim Melia, UFCW Local 328; John R. Durso, Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW; Salvatore Ferraino, UFCW Local 360; Ronald Petronella, UFCW Local 371; John R. Niccollai, UFCW Local 464A; Max Bruny, UFCW Local 888; Mark A. Espinosa, UFCW Local 919; Harvey Whillie, UFCW Local 1262; Fernando Lemus, UFCW Local 1445; Tyrone C. Housey, UFCW Local 1459; and Robert Newell, UFCW Local 1500.
“The charge is meritless,” a Stop & Shop spokeswoman asserted when asked by Progressive Grocer for comment. “The UFCW and its locals have engaged in many discussions with Stop & Shop regarding appreciation pay and the two extensions of the program to date. Local 1500 has acknowledged these discussions and our partnership in extending the program both on their social media pages and in their leaflets.”
Added the spokeswoman: “We deeply appreciate the extraordinary efforts of our associates and have been pleased to offer and extend our appreciation pay program for longer than nearly every other food retailer. The purpose of this temporary extra pay was to recognize our associates for their hard work during an unprecedented surge in demand and customer traffic. As states continue to reopen, we are returning to pre-COVID levels of traffic and demand. We are continuing to take significant steps to keep our associates and customers safe and will continue to offer our associates a flexible leave policy and additional paid sick leave.”
Stop & Shop teamed with UFCW to introduce the appreciation pay program in March, and the two organizations jointly revealed the extension of appreciation pay through July 4.
Kroger and Albertsons have also phased out their coronavirus pay increases but have not as yet faced charges from the NLRB.
Based in Washington, D.C., UFCW is the largest-private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million workers in the health care, grocery, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries, across all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.