Once the UFCW begins to pay strike pay, the UFCW will lose nearly as much as Stop & Shop is during the strike. That could easily crush the UFCW.
As politicians like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and others do “drive-by” photo ops and rallies with UFCW members out on strike against Stop & Shop, there is an old adage in labor disputes that strikers must last “one more day” than the bosses in order to win.
Over the last 50 years, as the nation has moved away from the U.S.-centric manufacturing economy that enabled unions to thrive to a more global economy, strikes have become increasingly harder to win for many unions.
This is especially true when the company a union is fighting made $2 billion in profits last year, as is reportedly the case with Stop & Shop’s parent company Ahold Delhaize.
That said, the Stop & Shop strike is reportedly costing the company $2 million per week.
While that is a lot of money, in the grand scheme of things, it would appear that if it wanted to, Stop & Shop could win the UFCW strike just by holding out “one more day” than the UFCW and its strikers.
If the strike is costing Ahold Delhaize $2 million per week, the company could easily withstand a strike for months—even years—and it would not cripple the company.
For example, if the strike were to last 50 weeks, at $2 million per week, the company would lose $100 million. That would mean the company’s $2 billion profit would drop to $1.9 billion.
On the other hand, strikers who have been on strike for less than two weeks are already starting to feel the financial pinch.
Worse, since strikers have to be on strike “for fourteen days in succession” in order to collect strike pay, by the time the UFCW has to dip into its treasury next week, it is likely many strikers will have started falling behind on crucial payments–like cars, rent or mortgages.
In addition, when the union does start paying strike pay, the UFCW will be losing nearly as much as Stop & Shop is during the strike.
With more than 30,000 strikers to pay strike pay to at between $50 and $100 per week, the strain on the UFCW’s treasury will add up quickly.
Of the 31,000 UFCW strikers out on the Stop & Shop picket lines, the UFCW will reportedly pay part-time employees $50 per week and $100 per week to full timers, provided they do six-hours of picket duty per day.
Since 75% of the UFCW strikers are part-timers, the UFCW should be obligated to pay out $1,162,500 per week in strike pay to part-timers and another $775,000 to full-time strikers.
That would mean, if all of the strikers are doing “strike duty” and are eligible for UFCW strike pay, the union would begin shelling out over $1.9 million per week in strike pay—nearly as much as the $2 million Stop & Shop is losing in business.
At that point, the question becomes, who has the deeper pockets and can outlast the other?
The UFCW has been down this road before…and it ended badly for the union.
In 2003, the UFCW took 60,000 members out on strike against three supermarket chains in Southern California for 141 days. It was at the time, and still is, considered the longest supermarket strike in U.S. history.
By the time the strike was over, however, the UFCW “surrendered to all of the major demands of the supermarket chains.”
There is nothing to indicate Stop & Shop (or its parent company) want this strike to last any longer than it already has.
In fact, both sides are currently working with mediators to try to hammer out a deal.
However, the longer the strike lasts and the more strikers and the UFCW lose money, the leverage will shift to favor the company.
If neither party is willing to move on the main issues, the UFCW may drive itself toward a similar fate that it faced in Southern California more than 15 years ago—and no amount of political “drive-by” photo ops will help save the union and its strikers from that reality.