Thirty striking workers from Shaw's Methuen warehouse and their supporters descended on State Street Bank's downtown Boston headquarters to pressure its top executives to take a stand against Supervalu's (Shaw's parent company) refusal to end the nearly 14 week strike.
State Street is the third largest shareholder in Supervalu.
After five Massachusetts labor leaders with union accounts at the bank wrote to its Chairman, Jay Hooley -- and with a noon-time rally planned for Thursday, June 10 -- State Street executives agreed to an 11th hour meeting. Union and community leaders were willing to stop the protest in exchange for a substantive meeting with Shawn Johnson, the head of State Street Global Advisors and Chairman of its Investment Committee.
While a large group of strikers waited in the lobby (and enjoyed coffee provided by the bank), a smaller delegation went upstairs to meet with the State Street management team. The meeting was attended by Jim Porter, Chief Steward at the Methuen warehouse; Mike Upton, warehouse worker and strike leader; Peter Derouen, Political Director of UFCW Local 791; Russ Davis, Director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice; Tom McIntyre, Bricklayers Union and State Street client; Megan Pierce and Jon Landsman, UFCW International staff; and Rand Wilson, Center for Strategic Research, AFL-CIO.
"We've helped this company to succeed," said Mike Upton. "We don't ask for a lot. We've sacrificed in the past to maintain good health benefits. But this year, despite everything we've done, the company was just unwilling to negotiate."
"Now we've got no choice but to go outside the box and expand the strike," said UFCW's Peter Derouen. "As a major shareholder of this company, we are requesting that State Street contact Supervalu CEO Craig Herkert and actively encourage Supervalu management to restore the workers' health care benefits and return to the bargaining table."
"State Street handles pension and other funds for many unions," said the Bricklayers' Tom McIntyre. "As your clients, we don't want to see our money used against working families. You can make a difference!"
"As an investor and leader in the Greater Boston community, you should be concerned that Shaw's demands to take away hard earned benefits and job security is doing untold damage to the company's brand and reputation," said Jobs with Justice's Russ Davis. "A vigorous store boycott is underway and it's having a long term impact."
A lively dialogue took place at the meeting, but the results were inconclusive. Strike leaders said they would give State Street a few days to respond and take next steps accordingly. The Supervalu annual shareholder meeting is June 24 in Minneapolis. Many strikers are planning to attend the meeting and hope that State Street will exert some influence before then. Stay tuned!
Photos from the action may be seen on the Picasa picture sharing website at: