SEATTLE — It’s a sight no shopper wants to see: A picket line blocking the entrance to their favorite grocery store.
But it’s one step closer to happening after Thursday’s decision by more than 20,000 grocery checkers, baggers and other employees to authorize a strike in protest of the latest contract offer from their employers. What a strike means is that long lines and unstocked shelves could be a very real possibility at area grocery stores.
“I’ve watched Fred Meyer grow into a billion-dollar company, one of the richest in this country,” said Jessie Garoch, who has worked for Fred Meyer for 25 years. “Now, they want the tax payers to cover our health care and to cut our pay benefits.”
Health care is certainly a big issue. The grocers want to eliminate coverage for employees who work less than 30 hours a week. And there are also disagreements over holiday pay, paid sick leave and base salary.
More than 98 percent of union members voted to strike if their demands aren’t met.
The companies said they hope to avoid a work stoppage and Scott Powers, with Allied Employers Spokesman, said in a statement: “The important thing is that we get back to the bargaining table and do the hard work of putting a negotiated settlement together.”
Four major grocery stores — QFC, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Albertson’s — would be affected by a strike.
Some shoppers like Maurene Allenbach plan to avoid any picket lines and said, “I’d stock up ahead and hope for the best.”
But Matt O’Brien, a college student on a budget, said he has no choice. ”Anything else is PCC or Whole Foods and that’s a little out of my range as a college student.”
The union has not announced a strike. Once a strike is announced, workers and employers have 72 hours of bargaining before workers walk out of stores.