More 2020 Hopefuls Join Stop & Shop Workers on the Picket Line

Fed up Stop & Shop employees walked off the job on April 11 to call for better wages and benefits

For the second straight day, national political figures showed support for striking Stop & Shop workers.

Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg joined Stop & Shop employees on the picket line at the Malden, Massachusetts, store at noon on Friday. He was already scheduled to be in New Hampshire campaigning this weekend.

"I'm running for president largely because I believe that our freedom depends on understanding how to make sure the changes in our society work for working people. What's happening at Stop & Shop is an example of the exact opposite," Buttigieg told the crowd.

He said what's so inspiring about the strike is that workers are saying they are not going to stand for the cuts that make it difficult for them to get by.

"This largest private sector strike in three years is sending a message that is going to ripple out far beyond New England," said Buttigieg. "And the message is that companies have to do right by their workers."

Fellow Democratic presidential contender Amy Klobuchar also visited with striking workers Friday afternoon in Somerville. She said on Twitter that she stands in solidarity with the Stop & Shop workers.

Their visits come a day after former Vice President Joe Biden rallied with Stop & Shop workers in Boston.

More than 31,000 employees from more than 200 Stop & Shop stores in New England walked off the job on April 11 over stalled negotiations between the company and their union, the United Food and Commercial Workers. Friday marked the strike's ninth day.

With Passover having begun and Easter just days away, Stop & Shop reiterated Friday that they are working on getting employees back to work and putting an end to the strike.

"There is nothing we want more than having our associates back in the stores, taking care of customers and our communities," the company said. "We have offered fair and responsible contracts and remain in active negotiations to reach new agreements as quickly as possible that keep our associates among the highest paid grocery retail workers in New England, while also providing excellent health care and increased contributions to a defined benefit pension plan."

Employees have received support from various politicians in recent days.

Biden, who is expected to run for president in 2020, joined workers at a rally in Dorchester on Thursday.

"People who bust their neck, people who go out and make a living, people who play by the rules, people who have done everything they were supposed to do, and people are entitled to be treated with respect and decency and fairness," said Biden.

Former Vice President Joe Biden was among the big-name politicians who attended a rally Thursday afternoon in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood to support the 31,0000 striking Stop & Shop workers.

"This is morally wrong what's going on in this country, and I've had enough of it. I'm sick of it, and so are you," Biden added. "We gotta stand together, and if we do, we will take back this country — I mean it."

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential hopeful, met with Stop & Shop employees at the Somerville store last week. And fellow Democratic contenders Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have also shown their support for the workers on Twitter.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who also attended Thursday's rally, said he supports the employees and union.

"When I heard about this strike and I saw some of the papers going back and forth, and one, the company wanted to take away health insurance — that's something we can't stand for," he said.

Numerous rabbis in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have also advised their congregations to refrain from crossing picket lines.

"Stop & Shop and the five UFCW local unions are continuing negotiations into the evening," said Stop & Shop officials in a statement Friday night. "We remain focused on reaching fair new agreements that provide market-leading wages, excellent health benefits for eligible associates and increased pension contributions for all our associates."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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