Your wages, benefits and working conditions at Stop & Shop are all hammered out through negotiations with Stop & Shop management (Ahold is Stop & Shop’s parent company). The five New England UFCW locals are trying to get the best possible deal for you while Stop and Shop management will try to negotiate a contract that will curb their labor costs so they can be more competitive and increase their profitability. The good news for you is that government statistics consistently show that workers who have a union to bargain on their behalf;enjoy greater benefits, higher wages and have more job security than workers without a union.

One of the key factors that determines the quality of the agreement is worker unity, or solidarity. That’s why the UFCW union you belong to negotiates your contract jointly with four other UFCW locals at the same time. Joining forces with other UFCW locals strengthens the bargaining position for over 40,000 Stop & Shop workers like you.

Each of the five UFCW locals sends a negotiating team to meet with Stop & Shop manager. The collective UFCW negotiating team consists of local union representatives as well as rank and file Stop & Shop union members. Although there are many negotiating team members who attend the negotiations, most of the talking is done by the chief negotiator. Either side may decide to call a caucus and temporarily suspend talks so they can meet in private to discuss negotiation strategy. The negotiation process can be both intense and grueling. All told, it can take several months and lots of back and forth before the sides agree on a fair package.

Once a tentative agreement has been reached between UFCW and Stop & Shop, it is placed into a contract that spells out your wages, benefits and working conditions. In the past, the length of the agreement between the UFCW locals and Stop & Shop has been for 3 years. Your current contract is set to expire on February 23, 2013 and both sides are currently negotiating a new contract to replace the existing one. Once an agreement is reached, you and your coworkers will have an opportunity to vote on it. Alternatively, you and your coworkers may decide to keep working under the terms of the existing contract if a new agreement cannot be reached. Your seasoned UFCW negotiators will make recommendations to you when the time comes.

The past few contract negotiations with Stop & Shop have been very contentious. Despite soaring profits, Stop & Shop has been very reluctant to share  profits with you and other employees. Indications are that this year will be no different. Stop & Shop’s #1 strategy has been to say it’s hard for them to compete with other food and retails outlets that do not have a union. But the bottom line is that their profits—profits that you helped them create—are up. We are going to stop at nothing to see that you are properly rewarded for your share of your hard work.

To that end, we will do our best to keep you informed about how negotiations are progressing this year. The best thing you can do to help us is to educate yourself about the issues and let your coworkers know what’s at stake.

And remember, the more united you are, the stronger our position is during negotiations and the better your contract will be. United we win!