This past April, over 30,000 Stop & Shop employees at over 240 stores all across Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island went on a 10-day strike protesting proposed cuts to wages and health insurance coverage. The strike made history as the largest private sector walkout in years and cost the company millions of dollars over the near two-weeks leading up to the Passover and Easter holidays.
At a time when grocery giants are consolidating across the industry and gaining billions in market shares, worker-led strikes remain one of the most effective ways for employees to have their voices heard by corporate leaders–many of whom are located thousands of miles away. According to Vox’s April 22 article titled, The largest private sector strike in years is over. Supermarket workers won, “A total of 485,000 employees were involved in major work stoppages last year — the highest number since 1986.” These strikes spanned across multiple industries, and included food workers, flight attendants, garbage collectors, and steel workers.
Last month, our co-op had the privilege of hosting author Jon Steinman on the North American tour of his new book, Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants. Jon spoke to many of our member-owners about the rising power of grocery store giants as corporate consolidation is quickly erasing many small, independent grocers. These consolidations–such as the Dutch company Ahold-Delhaize taking ownership of Stop & Shop or Amazon purchasing Whole Foods–take place at the expense of workers’ rights to fair wages, benefits, and the ability to organize. We are lucky in the Pioneer Valley to still have a number of small independent grocers. However, as Jon mentions in his book, few small grocers across the country have developed succession plans and therefore are at risk of being bought out by larger companies. Food cooperatives provide one of the only remaining grocery store alternatives. Because they are owned by people like you and me, we all get to make the major decisions on how our stores are run, now and in the future–not corporate CEOs.
At Common Share, we believe in the power of consumer AND worker owned cooperatives. We are proud that once our doors open, 4 out of the 9 board member seats will be reserved for our employees. This ensures more transparency between employees, upper management, and consumer board members and allows a greater diversity of experiences to be heard.
Check out the full article from Vox and find out more about our mission to build a worker and consumer owned store right here in Amherst.
Article written by Emily Chiara, Common Share Food Co-op’s Community Engagement Coordinator.