Local Stop & Shop employees head to the picket line

A Stop and Shop in the Elmwood section of West Hartford Connecticut is one of the retailer's 91 Connecticut stores where workers walked off the job Thursday

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"I believe they [Stop & Shop] are not trying their best to work out an agreement", said Vanessa White, an employee of the East Hartford store for 16 years.

"These are the worst negotiations since we can't remember". It's gonna cost us more money.

"Full-time Stop & Shop union associates in New England are among the highest paid in the industry", the company wrote online, adding that the average hourly wage is $21.30.

In a statement posted on its website Thursday, Sop & Shop said negotiations are continuing and the company was "disappointed that the union chose to order a work stoppage in an attempt to disrupt service at our stores".

Floral Department Manager Jennifer Bugai said that the store closed and most everyone exited right at 1 p.m. when the strike was called.

West Hartford resident Carolyn Lind speaks with Scott Barry, a striking worker at the Farmington Avenue Stop & Shop about the strike and store being closed. The start of Thursday's strike left customers like Princess Guwor, a Lynn teacher, with decisions to make.

"I'm fortunate to have a good living situation, but if I didn't, I would be in a lot of trouble", said Velez, who works for the store's Peapod grocery delivery services.

"But it's short-term pain for long-term gain", she said.

She said she would consider the strikers' request to not shop at the store. Unions representing the workers authorized a strike in March and workers have been without a contract since February.

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Stop & Shop says it has made several suggestions to federal mediators to encourage further bargaining with employees.

As of 5:30 p.m., Brogan said, the majority affected stores have been reopened.

In a statement on Thursday, Stop & Shop officials say no one's pay would be cut and that "Gold Level" health care benefits would continue for eligible associates and that the company increased contributions to the pension fund for vested associates. Other issues include pension benefits and the use of automation in the company's stores.

Her statement also said Stop & Shop has proposed across-the-board pay increases but the statement did not specify the amount of the increase.

Barry said that the picket line will be covered 24 hours a day.

The union did not mention a specific length of time that they plan to walk out for, and Brogan said the company did not have any indication on how long it could last. "We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible that both recognize and reward the great work of our associates and enable Stop & Shop to compete effectively in the rapidly changing New England grocery market", Brogan said.

"This company has shown us that they do not respect you", said Jeff Bollen, president of UFCW Local 1445, in a video. All in all, this represents a massive step backwards with many workers facing reduced weekly earnings if they agreed to their "final offer'".

White said her job helps support her two children, and for the most part, she's liked working for the company - until now. "As long as it takes". "So it's going to affect a lot of people".

Customer Mikylya Akers of Lynn said she likes Stop & Shop for its regular shopping deals and courteous employees.

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