Produce & You: A look at the Stop & Shop strike

By Staff Writer Sawyer Pollitt.

If you are a part of the food-buying public, you have most likely noticed the picket lines forming outside of Stop & Shop stores across New England. This strike, one of the largest in recent memory, has garnered massive attention from locals, national news, and several presidential candidates.

For many of us here living on campus, especially in Woodlands and in the Dells, Stop & Shop may be our normal stop for groceries, cleaning supplies, and other necessities. When the strike was underway, we, as consumers, were being urged to not cross the picket line and respect the workers standing outside of the store.

At first glance this might seem like a non-issue. “Never cross a picket line” is the common narrative and makes a lot of sense. These are workers standing up to big business in one of the most powerful ways that they can, through the denial of their labor. Crossing a picket line is akin to putting the interests of a corporation above those of your community.

For us college students, it is easy for us to abide by this rule. We have many ways of getting food, we can partake in any number of residential dining options such as Birch or the commuter café. However, this strike wasn’t localized to our North Dartmouth Stop & Shop, it reached all across New England.

There are many cities and towns within New England that would qualify as food deserts. A food desert is an urban area that has a lack of access to good quality, affordable food. There may well exist an area where Stop & Shop is the only store within any kind of reasonable distance where one can purchase food. For people living in those regions, this strike can be a massive drain on their lives.

They may rely on their one local Stop & Shop for everything, and while this strike was going on they may be at a loss of what to do. One may support and respect their neighbors, family members, and friends who are on strike, but these same people still needed affordable, accessible food. As important as this strike is for the workers at Stop & Shop, it is unreasonable to expect families to go without food for any amount of time.

This question is a very difficult one that does not present a clear answer. Should the hard and fast rule of not crossing a picket line be loosened in the case of needy families? Or should these families be expected to go out of their way to buy food? Both options have positives and negatives. By crossing the picket line, these people are showing that Stop & Shop can still make money regardless of how they treat their workers, but by going elsewhere they may be spending even more time and money that they just don’t have.
Unfortunately, this is a question that cannot be answered in a newspaper article.

The only people who can truly find an answer are those who are living in the situation where Stop & Shop is their only local grocery store. Whatever the outcome of extenuating cases like these, it is important to be socially and politically aware citizens. We might be quick to jump on the strike train, and one cannot be faulted for doing so, but it is important to look at this from many perspectives.

While the strike was ongoing, we here at UMass Dartmouth could’ve shopped at Target, Shaw’s, Market Basket, or at any local stores or farmers markets. Supporting the strike does not have to be detrimental to the consumer, in fact it can be beneficial to the community to put money into local businesses and into corporations that value their employees.

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