NEW BRITAIN - It was a busy scene at the Stop & Shop on Corbin Avenue Monday morning as customers returned to the store to do some shopping and employees could be seen cleaning and restocking shelves, a day after the strike was settled.
But by noon the store still lacked a variety of items in the produce, meats, deli, bakery and floral departments.
Many items that had lingered on store shelves during the 11-day strike were on sale at the New Britain store including canned goods, Easter cookies and other items.
Many customers in New Britain, Berlin, Newington and Bristol refused to cross the picket line during the strike, choosing to shop elsewhere or wait out the contract dispute.
Local residents who went to the New Britain store on Monday said they were happy the strike is over.
Walter L. Jones, of New Britain, said he buys his groceries at Stop & Shop in New Britain because he lives conveniently close to the store.
“Well, it’s a little empty right now but I’m glad that it is open because I don’t have to go as far to do local shopping,” Jones said. “I’m sure they got the raise and they got what they wanted. Let’s hope that they improve on their service because some of them have an attitude, unfortunately. They want the money but they don’t want to do the work.”
“I missed Stop & Shop,” Gilberto Padilla, of New Britain, said. “I have been a customer here since 1988.”
Jennifer Brogan, Stop & Shop’s director of external communications and community relations, said it will take a few days before shelves are re-stocked and operations go back to normal.
The United Food And Commercial Workers Union reached a tentative agreement on with the chain’s management Sunday evening.
“We are very pleased to announce Stop & Shop has reached fair new tentative agreements with UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445 and 1459, which represent our 31,000 associates in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island,” Brogan said in a Stop & Shop media update. “We’re also glad to have our associates return to work as the strike has ended.”
The tentative three-year agreements, which are subject to ratification by members of each of the union locals, include increased pay for all associates, continued health coverage for eligible associates and ongoing defined benefit pension benefits for all eligible associates.
According to Bloomberg News, the proposed contract would also include some cuts for part-time employees hired at the company in the future, who would receive less in pension contributions. They would also no longer be guaranteed time-and-a-half pay when working on Sundays during their first three years at the company.
“Our associates’ top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the service they deserve,” Brogan said. “We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop.”
Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz released a joint statement Monday regarding the tentative agreement.
“We are proud of the women and men of the United Food and Commercial Workers who fought for what they deserve,” the statement said. “These are good jobs that provide fair wages, good benefits, and a secure retirement that are critical to the success of Connecticut’s families. It was great to see so much backing from the community in support of the workers who are simply trying to support their families and earn an honest living. Now, the 31,000 hardworking store clerks, associates, and meat cutters can get back to doing what they love - serving their customers and communities.
“We know that the bargaining process is not easy, but this is a win for the workers, for management, and for Stop & Shop’s customers.”
Sharon Baretta, of New Britain, said that while the Stop & Shop workers were on strike for their own reasons, she believes the strike helped many other workers across different industries.
“To me it was a fight for the American worker,” Baretta said.
Potien Moket, of New Britain, said he was looking for a particular kind of water on Monday and he couldn’t find it at the New Britain Stop & Shop.
“This store here has particular specialties,” Moket said. “They have good fruits and they have good veggies. We are happy to see that it is open.”
In a Facebook poll, The Herald asked if customers were willing to shop at the chain again, now that the strike is over. The majority of regular Stop & Shop customers said they would return.
“Yes, but probably not as much,” Carlo Carlozzi Jr., said. “Not happy with how management treated their employees prior to the strike, would not negotiate for months at a time. Management needs to understand that it is the employees who build customer loyalty not some corporate person from overseas.”
“Probably, but I am very unhappy with the recent installation of additional self-check lanes,” Kathleen McKeown said. “If there are not enough checkers on duty to efficiently serve customers, I will look for a new store with better service.”
“I never shop there, prices are too high,” David Wearne said.
“Yes most definitely,” Maribel Nieves said. “Shopped at Big Y and Price Chopper’s way too expensive and the deli people were rude.”
“Why not? I shop many stores, Stop and Shop being one of them, and will continue to do so,” Diane Flanders said.
“Yes. I miss the hot salsa,” Lyne Stokes said.
Stop & Shop will return to its regular operating scheduled beginning today.
Karla Santos can be reached at 860-801-5079 or firstname.lastname@example.org.