WESTPORT — Over 40 Westport Stop & Shop employees picketed outside the Post Road store around 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, the second day of the strike.
“We have a bunch of support. Everybody’s outside. All the workers are here,” said Stop & Shop clerk Pat Duphiney, who has worked at the company for 42 years and the Westport store for the past five.
While she’s heard nonworkers joined the picket line in other towns to show support for the workers, the Westport strike is composed solely of Westport Stop & Shop employees, Duphiney said.
Several cars driving on the Post Road honked in support of the workers standing along the road in front of the Stop & Shop parking lot.
“This is a tough crowd. It’s Westport,” Duphiney said, noting some customers have crossed the picket line and continue to shop at the store.
Despite these customers, shop steward Bill Leger said the strike has been “fantastic” because he estimated 90 percent of the customers are turning away from the store and are very supportive of the workers.
The parking lot, sparse with cars on Friday, is usually filled with cars around 10 a.m., Leger said.
“They’re family. We see them all the time,” Leger said. “Some are going in and getting their medications and that’s fine.”
Westporter Ed Whitney walked out with several shopping bags in a cart and said he’s still shopping at the store, “because I need food. Otherwise I’d skip it.”
“I’m sympathetic with the strikers, but I also need to get groceries and keep the family going,” Whitney said.
When asked why he decided to shop at Stop & Shop as opposed to another grocery store, Whitney said, “Because I always shop here.”
Several workers said customers have a misconception that the strike is only about employees’ desire for a raise.
“People say it’s all about how we want more money and a raise, but it’s about more than just a raise. It’s about health care and our pension,” produce manager John Merritt said.
Duphiney agreed the protest is primarily about cuts to worker pensions and increased deductibles for health benefits, but noted a raise is also important because cost of living has gone up while wages have not increased.
“They’re making billions and they want us to give back. We just want our fair share,” Leger said.
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