Grocery Worker Strike Looming

Grocery store workers across Western Washington could be on the verge of hitting the picket lines.

After what the UFCW Local 21 is calling a recent three days of contract negotiations with big grocery chain where “no progress was made,” union members working at Safeway, QFC, Albertsons and Fred Meyer across Western Washington are voting this week to authorize a strike. The strike authorization vote was unanimously recommended by the union member bargaining team last week. All told, according to Local 367 Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Comeau, contract negotiations have been going on for approximately six months, involving collective union representation from Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties. Comeau says the two sides – with grocery stores being represented by Allied Employers – have met “well over 12 times.”

According to Comeau, union employees are unhappy with their latest contract proposals due to shortcomings in health care offerings for employees working under 30 hours a week, a lack of time-and-a-half pay on holidays, inadequate sick pay provisions and a lack of wage increases.

“We really haven’t made any progress,” says Comeau. “Our members feel like this is pretty much a disrespectful proposal.”

In Pierce County UFCW Local 367 will hold strike authorization votes via secret ballots Wednesday during three separate meetings at Tacoma’s Landmark Convention Center. According to UFCW Local 21, similar secret ballot votes have been going down in SeaTac, Seattle, Bellevue, Bremerton and Lynwood since Sunday. The results of the voting are expected to be released Thursday.

According to Comeau, if workers do decide to strike unions would be required to provide 72-hours notice, calling the decision a “tactical decision at that point.” Comeau says he does expect some bargaining to take place after the vote.

All told, according to the union, the strike could include some 30,000 grocery workers across Western Washington, represented by UFCW Local 367 in Pierce County, UFCW Local 21 in King County and Teamsters Local 38 in Snohomish County. While Allied Employers represents each grocery individually – with union employees at Safeway receiving slightly different proposals than employees at Fred Meyer, for example - Comeau says all of the proposals have been similar and “equally bad.”

Representatives from Safeway and Kroger did not immediately return calls for comment for this story.

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