On April 11, Stop & Shop employees across Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island officially went on strike. After months of working without a contract and being stonewalled in negotiations, 31,000 workers walked off the job at 1 pm.

Outside the Stop & Shop in Boston’s Jamaica Plain, the picket line was lively. The store — like most locations across New England — was closed. Over 30 Stop & Shop employees and customers picketed together, loudly chanting their demands for a fair contract. Dozens of commuters honked their car horns in support of the strikers as they drove by.

Liberation Photo: Hersch Rothmel

Liberation Photo: Hersch Rothmel

“We are going on strike today because of our wages being cut and our pension being cut… As well as them taking away our paid vacation time and increasing our health care [costs].” Ian O’Garro, told Liberation News. O’Garro noted that the negotiation process has been stressful for him and his co-workers, many of whom have children. He was heartened to see so many Stop & Shop customers supporting the strike.

Cynthia Gailliard, a member of 1199 SEIU, was on her way to shop for groceries when she joined the picket line, “I just joined in. I’m supporting them… Any unfair treatment of employees should not be tolerated anywhere. I’m definitely in for the fight… Give them their contract! Make it fair across the board!”

In a video released on Facebook by the United Food and Commercial Workers (the union representing Stop & Shop workers) UFCW Local 1445 President Jeff Bollen noted that Stop & Shop is in a strong enough financial position to offer the contract that the workers are demanding. “[Stop & Shop is] owned by an international conglomerate called Ahold Delhaize. They are a very profitable company. They made billions last year in sales and profits. And they’re trying to destroy the health benefits and pension of our hard working members.”

Those sentiments were reflected on the ground in Boston. Stop & Shop customer and longtime labor organizer Susan Moir told Liberation News, “The way that management and corporations in this country have stuffed themselves with profits to the great detriment of working people is going to bring [this country] down.” Moir offered words of encouragement to all of the workers on strike, “It’s important for people to hang together, support each other and keep coming to the picket line. Because this is where you really feel the solidarity that we need. Getting to know people who you’ve worked with for a long time and knowing you’re there for each other. Just keep doing it until the man falls down!”

Liberation News will continue to cover the strike as it develops.