Boston, MA– Thousands of Stop & Shop employees walked off the job on Thursday after the supermarket chain failed to reach a contract agreement with union leaders, according to 7News Boston.

At 1:15pm yesterday, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union began walking off the job in stores throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

So, is this just about higher wages? What's the deal?

It's a whole host of factors. The union, which represents almost 31,000 workers in New England, has been negotiating with Stop & Shop since Valentine's Day of this year. The union is protesting the grocery chain's plan to cut healthcare and pension benefits for new hires. This strike was their way of getting the message across.

One union leader said: "The money they’re making, they don’t have to do that to us. We all work hard," he said. "We’re short staffed, we do the extra, and we do what we have to do. Seems like we’re getting nothing for it."

And how did Stop & Shop respond to the strike? In an official comment, Stop & Shop said they were "disappointed that the UFCW chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores." They assured customers that "Stop & Shop has contingency plans in place to minimize disruption."

Stop & Shop representatives added that they had sent revised proposals this week to the union leaders and had heard nothing from them until this strike.

The workers who are picketing the stores are asking all potential customers to not shop there until this has been resolved. As stated above, most stores have hired replacement workers to fill in; however, some stores are open during limited hours, from 8am-8pm. Make sure to call ahead to your local Stop & Shop before getting your groceries for the weekend. Or, you could avoid the picket line business altogether and go to another supermarket.

Image via Wikimedia Commons / Anthony92931