This is disgusting what they’re doing to us

We just want what’s right and fair and and what the company truly can afford

“This is disgusting what they’re doing to us,” Chris Pacitto told me. Pacitto is the seafood manager at the Stop & Shop in Watertown, MA where he’s worked for ten years and in general it’s a good place to work he said. If the company has their way it will get significantly worse.

Pacitto and about two dozen members of the United Food & Commercial Workers union were picketing outside the store on Wednesday along with 31,000 workers in total in the northeast after a breakdown in contract negotiations. “The men and women who make Stop & Shop a success have earned and deserve affordable health care, a good wage, and the ability to retire with dignity,” the union said in a statement, mentioning the company’s “proposed drastic and unreasonable cuts to health care, take home pay, and customer service as well as unlawful conduct.”

That means the elimination of Sunday and holiday pay for part-time workers and a steep increase in weekly premium costs for employee-only coverage “going from $1,000 for an individual to $2,000, and from $2,500 to $5,000 for a family,” according to the union. None of that would be solved by the thirty cent an hour pay increase the company has offered. There’s all sorts of other bad shit too which you can read more about here.  

To be fair Stop & Shop counters that lol who gives a fuck what they have to say about it. Ahold Delhaize which is the very non-evil sounding name of the Dutch conglomerate that owns Stop & Shop has revenue of around $43 billion a year and made $2 billion in profit last year according to the union who I believe because they are the union and not the company. “Ahold authorized $880 million in dividend payments to shareholders from 2017 to 2019,” according to the union. They also got tax cuts to the tune of over $200 million thanks to Donnie Deals. Remember when that happened and a lot of companies were like yes we’re going to uh… reinvest this in our workers and shit like that and some people actually believed it? That was wild.

Inside the store was desolate like something out of bad zombie show like that one they got on Netflix now that sucks so bad man I can’t talk about how bad it sucks enough. Don’t worry I’m not going inside to buy anything I told the workers. I just want to see what it looks like I said but I really needed to pick up some diarrhea medicine om account of some diarrhea related issues I was having but I didn’t do it obviously having resolved to suffer out of solidarity.

I poked around the store and a group of teens burst around the corner startling me also like in a zombie movie when there’s a jump scare but it’s just like a bird or whatever but in this case it was actually something scary it was a group of teens. An elderly woman worried over quickly turning produce near unstocked shelves. Three members of management sat on their dicks by the one open register. I don’t think there was any music on and it was eerily quiet. Maybe the guy who has the password to the Pandora account was on strike too. There was about as much fresh food as you’d find in the type of stores we make poor people shop at.

“We want our pension to be left the way it is, our health care not to be taken away from us, to keep our time and a half. Everything that we fight for every day,” said Pacitto, who was wearing a Red Sox t-shirt which is a very unsurprising bit of detail I’ve included here to set the scenery for you.

Did he feel like the company gives a shit about them?

“Right now I don’t think that they do value us,” he said. “We’re the guys that are out here every day, working hard, making them money, and they’re just taking it away from us.”

“We’re out here, we’re striking, we’re staying strong, and hopefully this will get resolved soon.”

I just remembered my high school into college girlfriend’s parents worked at Stop & Shop or maybe it was Shaws I don’t remember I always get the two mixed up. We go to Shaws in Watertown but I sometimes call it Stop & Shop because who even knows what a store is called most of the time. A couple of weeks ago I was at the check out and I forget what we were talking about it but the cashier a young woman said some sort of joke about old people and I laughed a little and then she didn’t laugh and I was like hey come on are you calling me old and then she gave me a sideways look like uh aren’t you? that is the meanest thing anyone has ever done to me in my life and I was immediately and thoroughly owned.

The girlfriend’s parents had a nice little pool out back and there was maybe like an old-timey car in the driveway always? They were very nice to me and seemed to have made a nice little life from careers at the grocery store is the point. I told this story before on Twitter but this was the family in question.

I've wondered what happened to that turd for like twenty years.

Anyway we’d go upstairs and do our sad little handjobs to each other and go swimming in the pool and things of that nature and then eventually she broke up with me when I was a junior in college I guess which doesn’t seem right but it must have been because it was when I was living in D.C. and interning at the White House lol. I hated working there very much and I hated wearing a suit in D.C. in the heat even more and I pretty much hated everything besides going to see shows at the 9:30 club. Most days I would fuck around on Lexus Nexus which was a magical thing to exist back then in the nineties you could look up so many magazine and newspaper articles on the computer holy shit. Then you could print them off and go take a shit for like thirty minutes or jerk off or whatever you had to do down the hall from Al Gore.

Eventually I met a nice woman who was much older at the time I think twenty seven which I remember thinking was an insane age to be and she had a young daughter of her own whose name I will never forget because her name was Peaches and I’m pretty sure this was before Peaches was a thing. I’d go to AA meetings with her due to she was sober and I was too but not in the same way mostly because I had barely even started drinking at this point in my life which is in part because I was twenty but also in part because I always grew up being scared I might turn into an alcoholic due to [gestures at the entire history of my family] and boy was I right about that because I eventually did whoops. She had a friend named Fire I remember that too. Fucking Fire man. What a guy.

I interned in the press office at the White House and as I believe I mentioned earlier it fucking sucked and I hated being around nothing but southern sorority girls and ambitious nerds from like Ohio and I just wanted to go see Our Lady Peace or whoever play a show which is what interested me chiefly. On the last week of my internship whoever my boss was some George Stephanopoulos underling asked me to photocopy what I remember being a whole lot of pages maybe like one hundred million? I started to do it and then I said I’m not going to do this and I walked out and never went back to the White House until that time a couple of years ago when I went to see the Patriots there and got depressed about it.

I ended up getting a D+ for the entire semester since my grade was supposed to be doing the internship and writing papers about what I learned and such at the internship but I didn’t learn anything at all and I never will.

I still have that t-shirt.

About fifteen miles south of the Watertown strike in North Quincy the next morning Brian Raftery who follows me on Twitter and is therefore smart and cool was holding the picket line at the busiest store in the region. He works in the deli full time and has been with the company for four years this week and he has a Boston accent that makes me sound like I’m George Plimpton.  

Workers are generally keeping the same hours they would have otherwise were they actually working he told me so he’d been there since seven in the morning.

Was he angry at the company?

“We all know the kinds of profits that Stop & Shop is reaping,” he said. “There’s a certain degree of anger, but anger isn’t the overriding feeling. We’d all rather be in there doing the jobs that we love to do and we take great pride in. We want to be in there serving the customers.”

By and large they’ve gotten nothing but support from them. The parking lot has been empty for almost the whole week and even on Sunday which is the biggest shopping day there.

That’s going to be an even bigger problem for the company with Passover and Easter coming up as Burt Flickinger a consumer industry and labor history analyst told WPRI. He estimated that the store will have lost $20 million by the weekend and noted that the previous record for a Stop & Shop strike was four hours long.

“I think the communities all across Mass and Rhode Island and Connecticut, they all have our back and we’re all thankful for that,” Raftery told me. “We all want to be back in there, but we know that the company can afford to give us the contract we deserve.”

There were a few scabs that management had bussed in working inside the store he said. Unlike in Watertown where the union can set up right in front of the doors here they had to remain off the property because Stop & Shop owns instead of merely leasing it.

“They’ve got some people in there from corporate running things. From what I understand, I’ve seen pictures of the insides of some of the stores, and the produce departments are empty. The deli where I work, the well where the meat is kept, is empty. There’s nothing in the prepared foods section. The deli, bake shop, and customer service are all unstaffed.”

Delivery trucks that come from the warehouse are driven by teamsters and they’ve refused to make deliveries he explained. Other third party non-union vendors haven’t however.  

I mentioned that I’d just seen an idiotic thread on Twitter which was the type of thing you typically hear from the right about how jobs in fast food and retail and customer service and so on are not supposed to be real jobs whatever that means.

“Honestly, that’s one of the things we’ve heard out here,” he said. Not every customer has been entirely supportive.

“Most of the customers that are coming in keep their windows up and barrel on through. But we’ve had the occasional person give us an earful. Another thing we’re trying to fight against is the proliferation of self check out, the robots and increased automation. This lady said ‘I just want you to know automation is the future whether you like it or not.’ She was basically lecturing my manager saying ‘You guys need to acquire skills.’  My manager has worked here twenty five years. She may work at Stop & Shop and people can judge that however you want but she’s a very smart person. I would say the very concept of that is offensive. I think a lot of the people out here would agree that’s highly offensive.”

They aren’t greedy he went on. They just want a livable wage.

“That’s not a ton to ask for. We just want what’s right and fair and and what the company truly can afford. I think it’s a pretty basic obvious idea. Having a happy and helpful and motivated work force starts with making sure your employees’ basic needs are met. That includes affordable health care, a wage you can support your family on, and not having to work two, three, four jobs to make ends meet. One job should be enough. Especially in the case of people who are working full time.”

Michael Welch, “just like the jelly” as he told me, is the shop steward at the North Quincy store and he’s worked there for twenty years.  He said the company has been putting out a lot of partial information that obscures the actual hit employees will take in terms of increased insurance costs. The also say the average wage is $21 but that doesn’t sound right to him. It’s probably more like $15 he said.

“We have a lady who’s worked in our produce department for over thirty years and she’s only making $13 an hour. Over thirty years in with the company! That’s not right. That’s what we’re out here fighting for. They’re putting a media spin on it but they’re not letting the whole story come out.”

One of the most egregious things to him is that they’re trying to kick spouses off of health care coverage.

“How is that fair?” he said. “I’ve been married thirty five years and I would hate to see my wife forcibly removed. She works part time for Dunkin Donuts and some weeks she makes enough she would qualify for health insurance but not always. It’s just wrong. This is very personal for me. Not just for me, I’ve got the twenty years, I’m fifty five years old, and I’m looking toward the end of the rainbow. But there are people still coming up. I’ve got daughters working for the company in their twenties and thirties. They’re looking to make careers here since they see that their dad did it. I raised four daughters working for this company. It hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes I needed to earn a little more for the holidays. But who hasn’t done that? For the most part I have been able to support my family by what I make at Stop & Shop and that’s all we’re asking is keep giving us a livable wage so we can take care of our families.”