BOSTON — Stop & Shop supermarket workers and company officials reached a tentative contract agreement Sunday, according to news releases from both parties.
The company said the agreement ends employee strikes that started April 11 at 240 Stop & Shop stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
The tentative three-year agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers union is subject to ratification votes by members of each of the union locals, the company said.
“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,” the company 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.”
Ahead of Passover, which started Friday, a number of rabbis in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island had advised their congregations not to cross picket lines to buy Jewish holiday essentials at the store that one analyst says has the highest sales of kosher products among New England grocery stores.
“The food that you’re buying is the product of oppressed labor and that’s not kosher,” said Rabbi Barbara Penzner, of Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, a reconstructionist synagogue in Boston. “Especially during Passover, when we’re celebrating freedom from slavery, that’s particularly egregious.”
Although rabbis acknowledged their call to avoid the ubiquitous grocer can be challenging for some, especially in more remote communities where Stop & Shop is the most affordable — and sometime the only — place Jews can get matza meal, for making matza balls, gefilte fish, coconut macaroons and more for Passover.
The union said “today is a powerful victory for the 31,000 hardworking men and women of Stop & Shop who courageously stood up to fight for what all New Englanders want.” It said workers were on strike to protest the company’s proposed cuts to health care, take-home pay and other benefits.
The tentative agreement includes “increased pay for all associates, continued excellent health coverage for eligible associates, and ongoing defined benefit pension benefits for all eligible associates,” the company said.
“Under this proposed contract, our members will be able to focus on continuing to help customers in our communities enjoy the best shopping experience possible and to keep Stop & Shop the number one grocery store in New England,” the union said. “The agreement preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members.”
Stop & Shop, which operates about 400 stores in New England, New York and New Jersey, is owned by the Dutch supermarket operator Ahold Delhaize but was founded in the 1900s by a Boston Jewish family whose descendants remain major philanthropists and civic leaders in New England.
“We are grateful for members of the Jewish community who rely on our stores for kosher and Passover products,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We’re doing everything we can to minimize disruptions ahead of the holiday.”