Stop & Shop returns to the negotiating table with its unions on Wednesday. The state treasurer of Massachusetts has criticized the company's proposals — and she has a unique perspective.
State treasurer Deb Goldberg's family started, but no longer owns, Stop & Shop. Her ancestors opened the Economy Grocery Store in Somerville in 1914, and she and her family ran what became the Stop & Shop chain until the late 1980s.
In a video for the 2014 state Democratic convention, Goldberg presented herself as a friend of labor.
"We brought in the unions ourselves," she says in the video, "and created a company where literally thousands of people from multiple generations had jobs they could count on, with good pay and good benefits."
Goldberg has sided with the unions in their battle now with current owner Ahold Delhaize. The unions say the company is offering inadequate wages and wants to cut some benefits.
"This behavior is the opposite extreme of what my family and I represented and what our relationships were with our families, our workers, our unions," Goldberg said.
But according to published reports, while Goldberg's family was involved, labor relations weren't all sunshine and roses. There were attempts to use non-union workers.
And there were strikes in 1985 and again in 1988, while the company was contending with takeover bids.
Goldberg said things could get contentious.
"Yes, there were days where you'd fight like hell, you'd take your positions, you'd come to a fair agreement and you'd move forward," she said.
And the current owners are going too far, she said.
"If you were to interview any Stop & Shop employee that worked with my family, they would tell you they would give anything to have us back," she said.
Jeff Jones started at Stop & Shop as a part-timer on the night crew in 1984, and agreed with Goldberg's take.
"It just seemed like it was giant family-managed business," he said. He's now vice president of United Food and Commercial Workers 1459, which represents about 1,300 Stop & Shop employees in western Massachusetts.
"There was a local New England origin to the business, where you don't really have that now," he said. "You have people who are professional bean counters."
Stop & Shop declined to lay out the specifics of what it's offering. But on its website, it says its full-time union workers are among the highest-paid in the industry, and employees pay far less for health coverage than those at most other companies.
Sean Teehan contributed to this report.