As the Stop & Shop strike enters its sixth day, other grocery stores are seeing an influx of customers. Many shoppers said they are avoiding the chain as the picket continues.
Last week, 31,000 employees from more than 200 Stop & Shop stores in New England walked off the job over stalled contract negotiations. The union said the cuts to benefits and wages are unreasonable.
In Reading, the Stop & Shop is located right next to a Market Basket. The Stop & Shop parking lot was mostly empty Tuesday, while the lot at Market Basket was packed. Some of the shoppers were sampling the grocery store because of the strike.
"We always shop at Stop & Shop, but were not going to cross the picket line because my husband is a union member," Diane Kariger said. "We want to support them."
Frequent customers said the Market Basket store is always busy, but was more crowded than usual with many shoppers refusing to go to Stop & Shop next door. Many of them said they do not want to face the wrath of the union workers.
"It's just not worth the headaches. I hope they resolve it soon for everybody, all around, because it does affect everybody," Mary Mighella said.
Shoppers said they have noticed other grocery stores staffing up due to the influx and some are handing out flyers to help new customers figure out where products are.
At the empty Stop & Shop next door, David Blunt, a dairy manager participating in the strike, said he is confident customers will come back when the strike is over.
"Our quality is, far and away, superior to any other chain," Blunt said. "When the strike ends, we welcome everyone back."
Mark McGowan, the president of the Stop & Shop's New England division, sent out an email apologizing to customers.
"We are grateful for your understanding and are working around the clock to get back to business as usual," McGowan said in the email. "In the meantime, thanks for sticking with us."