Shop & Stop in Hicksville.

Shop & Stop in Hicksville. Credit: Ian J. Stark, 2012

Union leaders of Stop & Shop workers in the New York area were holding meetings Sunday evening to update members on a possible strike or work stoppage as they head into the busy Thanksgiving shopping period.

Employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500 will meet in Uniondale and Mount Kisco, where union leaders will update members about negotiations and a possible strike or work stoppage.

About 6,000 Stop & Shop union members -- including 3,000 on Long Island -- have been working without a contract since Nov. 3, the union said. The contract affects 20 to 25 stores on Long Island, union officials said.

Both union representatives and company officials are scheduled to continue negotiations on Monday. The union meetings on Sunday evening are meant to inform members about the current discussions and prepare picket captains in case of any action taken by the company or the union, said Local 1500 spokesman Pat Purcell.

In October, union members voted to give their leaders the authority to call a strike, an action they have taken during past contract negotiations to give their representatives more leverage.

While union leaders insist that a work stoppage or strike inconveniencing customers during the holidays is "the last thing we want to do," they said they are preparing for the possibility. Purcell said the company, which is owned by Dutch supermarket giant Ahold, distributed an internal memo to employees last week indicating it was making contingency plans to replace workers in the case of an action.

"We expect that the discussions will continue as both parties work to reach an agreement," said Arlene Putterman, a spokeswoman for Stop & Shop.

The two sides have been attempting to resolve complex issues raised by the Affordable Care Act, Purcell said. "There are many costs associated with health care plans throughout the country," Purcell said, "and unions and employers are resolving those issues."

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