Ruth Thompson had something to say to the strikers picketing outside the Stop & Shop in North Attleboro Wednesday: “We support you.”
She also had something to give them: Easter baskets.
Thompson, a North Attleboro resident, said she used to buy her groceries at Stop & Shop before workers walked out last week in a contract dispute, but will not return until it’s settled.
“I feel bad for them. I really do. All they want is a fair break,” she said.
Thompson said Stop & Shop is a profitable company and should let some of its profits “trickle down to the little guy.”
She is now doing her shopping at Market Basket. Her bank is inside Stop & Shop, but she is using an ATM machine at a nearby Cumberland Farms instead.
“I won’t go in. I won’t do it,” she said of Stop & Shop.
Strikers said Thompson’s support is just one example of the backing they are getting.
In North Attleboro, Route 1 motorists honked and gave thumbs up signs to them Wednesday.
At the Stop & Shop in Plainville, strikers said customers have brought them coffee, doughnuts and sandwiches.
“It keeps us going. It really does,” striker Kathy O’Keefe of Plainville said. “We’re working class families just like the majority of our customers, so they understand.”
She said she has seen almost no shoppers crossing their picket line.
The impact of the strike by 31,000 workers is plain to see inside the stores.
In Plainville, there appeared to be only two shoppers at about 10:30 a.m.
The produce shelves and some frozen food freezers were empty while the deli and bakery departments were closed. Even the lights were turned down.
Luckily for local shoppers, there are plenty of other choices for groceries.
In the Attleboro area, for example, there is a Market Basket in South Attleboro, a Seabra in downtown Attleboro and Shaw’s in North Attleboro, while area Target and Walmart stores also sell food.
Last weekend, other supermarkets were packed while Stop & Shops were empty. There were long lines at the Shaw’s in North Attleboro and it was busier than usual the rest of the week, customers said.
One woman in Shaw’s parking lot who declined to give her name said she usually goes to Stop & Shop, but refuses to during the strike.
Another woman, Kim Ledoux of Attleboro, said Shaw’s is her regular store, but she also would not patronize Stop & Shop during the strike.
She said the lines at Shaw’s have been much longer than usual, but she will put up with it.
Thompson said her son went to Market Basket and found it packed.
“He said it was wicked,” she said.
Chris Savoie of North Scituate, R.I., said when she went to Market Basket it was so crowded that it was hard to walk down the aisles.
Stop & Shop has said it has offered workers a competitive contract and has issued an apology to customers.
“We are committed to resolving our labor negotiations as quickly as possible so that our employees can return to their jobs and we can get back to better serving you and the community,” President Mark McGowan said in a prepared statement.
Workers outside the Plainville store said they are not asking for much, they just want to avoid the reduction in benefits the company is proposing.
Ed Sheerin of Plainville said the major issue is health care. He said the company wants to increase deductibles and ban spouses whose jobs offer insurance from being enrolled in the Stop & Shop plan.
United Food and Commercial Workers union members at 240 Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut went on strike on April 11 to protest cuts to health care and take-home pay they say are in the company’s latest contract proposal.
Quincy-based Stop & Shop, a division of Dutch company Ahold Delhaize, says it is offering across-the-board raises and “excellent” health care benefits that beat industry standards.