My Experience on the Stop & Shop Picket Line

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My Experience on the Stop & Shop Picket Line

photo by Benjamin Fyke

photo by Benjamin Fyke

photo by Benjamin Fyke

Story by Ben Fyke, Staff Writer

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As a part-time employee of the Stop & Shop in Pawcatuck, I was one of the 31,000 workers in three New England states who walked off the job on Thursday, April 11th. Our labor contract with the company had expired in February, and disputes over health insurance, employee pensions, and time-and-a-half pay on Sundays resulted in a negotiation deadlock between us and the company. All union locals had authorized a strike by mid-March, and the strike was officially called on that Thursday.

All employees were required to walk the picket line, the organization of striking workers in front of the store, when we were already scheduled to report to work. I had no idea what to expect because I have never been in a union before this job. Since I was on spring break that week, I made an effort to go strike during the day also so I could be a part of it as much as possible.

The picket line was exciting and undoubtedly interesting. Whenever someone made their way into the store, one of my supervisors would say something along the lines of, “Hello sir/ma’am, we’re on strike and would appreciate it if you didn’t cross our picket line.” Sometimes, the customer would not know about our strike, offer their support, and drive away. Most of the time, however, the customer would be fully aware of the demonstration and go inside anyway. Sometimes, the customers would let us know exactly how they felt about the strike on their way in, and a few times we called the police to handle the situation.

The majority of the Stonington community, with those few exceptions, supported us throughout the strike. Every day would bring another surplus of donuts, pizza, and other refreshments donated by the public. People driving by us on Voluntown Road would honk their car horns in support, and some were even on the picket line with us. Even once we returned to work, customers would still tell us how glad they were that we were back inside.

I took a lot from this 11-day strike. It taught me that when a large group of people stands up for themselves together, they can achieve meaningful change. Although I have learned this in high school before, being a part of an actual labor demonstration myself drove the point home. It was an invaluable experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

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