Workers at Stop & Shop have been on strike for the past week as their union battles with the company over pay, health insurance, and pension benefits. Picketing outside the stores, workers have been trying to get customers to shop elsewhere until the dispute is resolved.
One such customer was NHL legend Ray Bourque, who had the misfortune of having to pick up a prescription at the grocery store’s pharmacy. “Shame on you,” a striking worker yelled. (The stores are being staffed by skeleton crews of temporary workers and employees from corporate headquarters.) Afterward, Bourque tweeted that he had crossed the picket line “mistakenly” and “apologized immediately” on his way out.
In my opinion, Bourque has nothing to apologize for. People have a right to shop where they want to. I’m not necessarily opposed to what the union is asking for, and in general I’m strongly in favor of higher pay for blue-collar workers such as the cashiers, baggers, deli associates, butchers, bakers, and all the employees who make grocery stores run. Supporting the union by boycotting Stop & Shop for the duration of the strike is a great thing to do. But it’s not mandatory. There is a wide array of reasons why someone would choose Stop & Shop over another grocery store – perhaps there is no other store with comparable prices or with the exact product someone needs, or perhaps there are no other grocery stores within a reasonable distance. Heck, maybe there are some people who believe the union’s demands are unreasonable and want to show their support for the company. Although showing support for the strike is great if one is so inclined, no one is obligated to pay more or sacrifice hours out of one’s day in order to do so.
The union has every right to make public statements discouraging people from patronizing Shop & Stop stores. And it’s okay for picketing workers to hold signs saying “don’t cross the line” or similar slogans. But to yell at, shame, or insult individual people for crossing the picket line crosses the line from free speech to bullying. Customers should be free to decide for themselves whether to support the union, or not. No one deserves to be yelled at, shamed, or insulted because of where they buy groceries.