RANDOLPH (CBS/AP) — A union representing thousands of Stop & Shop workers in Massachusetts has voted to authorize a strike.

UFCW Local 1445’s vote Sunday allows the union to call a strike if the contract dispute with the supermarket chain continues. The union is asking members to keep working while negotiations continue.

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Employee Karen Anderson said, “We break out butts every day for this company. We do a good job. The customers love us, the customers are going to stand with us.”

She has been with the company 17 years. “They’re trying to take everything away from us and we work too hard for that.

The fight centers on health insurance, pensions and vacation time. The union says Stop & Shop is looking to “degrade the quality of life” of workers.

Union President Jeff Bollen said, “They complain that their costs are high, their labor costs. They’re bringing in robots, they’re talking about automation, they are getting rid of baggers, they are getting rid of meat cutters.”

UFCW Local 1445 has authorized the right to strike for Stop and Shop employees (WBZ-TV)

In a statement, Stop & Shop said it has offered proposals that “would ensure full-time associates continue to be among the highest paid food retail workers in the region.”

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We understand that the members of one of the five union locals have voted to authorize a strike, although this does not necessarily mean the union actually will initiate a strike. Negotiations will continue this week, and we are continuing to negotiate in good faith and remain committed to reaching a resolution as quickly as possible.

Full-time Stop & Shop associates are among the highest paid food retail workers in the region, and we are working hard to reach strong new contracts that will continue to provide Stop & Shop associates with competitive wages and affordable health care for eligible associates. Stop & Shop also has committed up to $2 billion to upgrade our stores over the next several years to better serve our customers and communities as we also lower prices and expand opportunities for our associates.

We are proud of our relationship with our associates and optimistic that we will be able to reach a new agreement.

Five union locals of the United Food & Commercial Workers have been negotiating with Stop & Shop for more than a month. Local 1445 is the first to vote on a strike.

“Stop and Shop workers work their butts off and they deserve the best contract they can get” said political director Jim Carvalho.

Stop and Shop employs more than 30,000 workers throughout the Northeast.

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