Was Stop & Shop strike a turning point?

THE STOP & SHOP STRIKE earlier this year cost the company about $100 million and resulted in a contract the workers could agree to, but whether the power on display at Bay State grocery stores was an aberration or a sign of resurgent force in private sector labor is an open question.

For decades, private sector labor has been on a decline around the United States, but the Stop & Shop strike gained big buy-in from the public and politicians. Jeff Bollen, who is president of the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 1445, noticed a connection between his union reaching an agreement with Stop & Shop and then later gaining some concessions from Macy’s.

“We believe when the strike ended, and we won that strike, that Macy’s came right back to the table and settled – the best contract we’ve ever gotten from them,” Bollen said.

Bollen and Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steve Tolman both sat down for an interview on the most recent episode of the Codcast to provide organized labor’s viewpoint on that strike and where the labor movement stands today.

Telling workers to refuse to work is a “last option,” but it was a necessary move in negotiations with the grocery chain, said Tolman.

“The last thing you want to do is have them risk everything, but they were forced out,” Tolman said.

Bollen claimed Stop & Shop had wanted to “decimate the entire contract” before the strike.

A couple reasons why the strike was successful for the union were that customers by and large didn’t cross the picket line, and other labor unions – especially the Teamsters who deliver products to the stores – stood alongside the striking workers, according to Bollen and Tolman.

The UFCW is also an active union when it comes to internal organizing, and it trained its workers – who were novices when it comes to striking – before the walkout on April 11.

“We told the workers in advance when we were training them, ‘Don’t worry about how much food gets into the store; don’t worry about how many scabs they bring in from the outside. All you have to do is win over that customer that you wait on every week, and you will win.’ And that’s exactly what happened,” Bollen said.

Neighbors brought food and coffee to the striking workers, some restaurants let them eat for free, and some of the nation’s most prominent Democratic presidential candidates – Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg – joined the protest outside the stores.

In Massachusetts, there has been broad, bipartisan support for legislation to allow public sector unions to charge non-members reasonable fees for services representing them in arbitration cases or other matters. The legislation, which the Senate plans to take up on Thursday, was drafted in response to the so-called Janus US Supreme Court decision, which barred public sector unions from collecting regular fees from non-members.

That “totally political” court decision is just one of the ways that the legal structure in the US has made it more difficult for organized labor in recent decades, according to Tolman.

Neither Tolman nor Bollen could say with any certainty whether the Stop & Shop strike will be a course-altering event that returns potency to the private sector labor movement or whether the bigger trend of diminishing labor power will continue.

Tolman said cooperation and solidarity between workers from all different professions is a key to victory. “We have to have each other’s back and when we do that, we are successful,” Tolman said.

ANDY METZGER

 

BEACON HILL

Jim Aloisi calls on Gov. Charlie Baker to step up to address the state’s transportation crisis. He debunks the claim that the MBTA doesn’t need more money, highlighting the difference between capital funds for long-term projects and operating funds for keeping the trains running and routine maintenance. It’s the latter, he says, which appears to be in short supply. (CommonWealth)

A Herald editorial rips House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s policy on the use of non-disclosure agreements with State House employees, which two female lawmakers recently said “silence victims” of sexual harassment.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston Chinese Neighborhood Association unveiled its new center in Quincy Center, a reflection of Quincy’s rapidly growing Asian American population. (Patriot Ledger)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump brushes aside a question about whether the US should further investigate the killing in Washington, DC, of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Washington Post)

In a book excerpt published in New York Magazine, writer E. Jean Carroll claims Trump raped her in a department store dressing room in New York about 23 years ago. Trump denied the accusation and claimed he has “no idea” who she is. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

The Boston Public Schools lack any system for evaluating the rigor of the district’s 1,900 high school courses, meaning classes with the same title have widely varying content and quality. (Boston Globe)

Transgender equity in sports in some cases shortchanges female athletes, says Globe columnist Jennifer Braceras.

Boston City Council president Andrea Campbell plans to release a set of recommendations today to promote greater equity in the Boston school system in terms of school assignment and other areas. (Boston Globe)

Nancy Grossman of Leverett wants to know where charters figure in the education funding debate. (CommonWealth)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Enid Eckstein, Elmer Freeman, and Carlene Pavlos say hospitals are doing more to help the neighborhoods in which they reside, and now it’s time to move from joint assessments to joint investments. (CommonWealth)

Nursing homes in the state continue to struggle to stay afloat amid low Medicaid reimbursement rates and stiff competition for workers. (Boston Globe)

A big majority of Bay Staters think drug prices are unreasonable and blame is split between the pharmaceutical companies and insurers, according to a new WBUR survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group.

ARTS/CULTURE

Norman Rockwell’s granddaughter Abigail talks about her work on the updated autobiography of her grandfather at the 50th anniversary of the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. (Berkshire Eagle)

Amid a rise in anti-Semitic violence, Rabbi Dan Rodkin, of Shaloh House in Brighton, is asking members of his congregation to bring guns to synagogue. (WBUR)

The DCU Center in Worcester adapts to a changing concert environment. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

While delays continue on the Red Line in the wake of the June 11 derailment, the MBTA’s commuter rail system is on a roll. (CommonWealth)

On his way to the US Conference of Mayors in Hawaii, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tells Politico Massachusetts that the MBTA needs financial support from the federal government but he is not very optimistic about federal funding for infrastructure.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Center for Climate Integrity estimates Massachusetts will need to spend $18 billion to fortify its coasts against the ravages of rising seas and more intense storms caused by climate change. (Eagle-Tribune)

Residents in Sagamore Highlands got the go-ahead to apply for a second time to install a structure to slow the effects of cliff erosion on their homes. (Cape Cod Times)

The Gloucester Board of Health supports a ban on all single-use plastic straws, and a public hearing on the idea is slated for Tuesday. (Gloucester Daily Times)

US Sen. Edward Markey spent Friday visiting the planned Brayton Point facility in Somerset that will connect offshore wind farms to local power grids. (Herald News)

CASINOS

A crowd of thousands lined up for the formal opening of the Encore Boston Harbor casino and hotel in Everett. (CommonWealth) Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, who a month ago was considering unloading the casino, now says it’s not for sale and the company is planning on expanding it into an entertainment district. (CommonWealth) Tidbits picked up while touring the casino. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Former Boston and New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton slammed Suffolk DA Rachael Rollins’s “do not prosecute” list, saying it will lead to a resurgence in crime. (Boston Herald)

The New Bedford police stop that led to the 2012 shooting death of African-American teenager Malcolm Gracia was unlawful, a Superior Court judge has said. (Standard-Times) Gracia’s killing was one of several spotlighted in this 2014 CommonWealth  feature story reporting that every one of 73 fatal police shootings in the state over the prior 12 years resulted in an initial finding that the use of force was justified.