The Boston Globe reports this morning that as many as 31,000 “Stop & Shop workers around New England went out on strike Thursday afternoon, forcing the region’s largest supermarket chain to temporarily close a number of stores, and prompting some customers at others to refuse to cross picket lines.”

The employees, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), struck the company after three months of contract negotiations; a strike had been authorized last February.

According to the story, “The striking workers say they are protesting the company’s proposal to reduce pension benefits for new hires and increase health care premiums.

“Stop & Shop notes that it is offering across-the-board pay raises and increased pension contributions for current employees and that its health care costs are a ‘fraction’ of what other retail employees pay.”

The Ahold Delhaize-owned chain “declined to say how many of its stores were closed. Stop & Shop has more than 400 stores in five states, and 60,000 employees. The stores in New York and New Jersey were not affected by the strike.”