With only 2 hours to spare, grocery strike averted with tentative pact

SEATTLE — For 21,000 grocery employees in the Puget Sound region there is no more anxiety about having to strike and go without pay.

A tentative contract deal has been reached.

strike“We’re glad not to have to go on strike.  Nobody wanted to go on strike, so we’re glad to have this agreement,” worker Sue Wilmot said.

“I feel great about not having to go on strike.  Like Sue said, none of us wanted to do that. It’s wonderful to be out here and to be able to go home,” worker Fran Sosbee said.

“What I hear is that the folks at the table all agree it’s a good deal, which is great for the workers,and it’s great for the citizens of Seattle and great for the grocery stores,” Seattle City Councilman Mike O’Brien said.

The deal was struck at 5 p.m. Monday, just two hours shy of the 7 p.m. strike deadline.

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Grocery workers celebrate the news of a tentative contract agreement late Monday at Westlake Center in Seattle.

The strike would have affected Fred Meyer, Safeway, Albertsons and QFC stores in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston and Mason counties.

The sticking points included compensation, of course, but also holiday pay, vacation pay, hours worked and health care.

Employees and their union insisted they didn’t want to strike but had to stand firm.

Few expected that so many of their customers would stand with them.

“We just want to make sure we support the employees of these stores and so we won`t be coming back while the strike is on,” customer Shannon Bush said.

“I won’t be shopping at Safeway during the strike. I’ll go to Trader Joe’s,” customer Betty Sullivan said.

Loyalty, more to the employees than the companies, because it’s the workers they see every time they shop.

“I know the people who work there.  They’re always very friendly.  They’re hard working and I hate the fact that they have to go through this,” Bush said.

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A sign thanking grocery customers for support of the workers during the contract talks.

“I just want to thank all the customers who said, ‘We’re with you. We won’t cross the picket line. We want workers to do better.’ People deserve to have a better life. That’s what this is about.  This is a victory not just for grocery workers, it’s a victory for all workers,” United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21 President Dave Schmitz said.

Everyone we spoke with believes the deal will be approved, but for now it is still a tentative agreement until members vote.

That could take some time to get all members in a position to cast a vote.

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