‘We are ready and we will strike,’ grocery workers say

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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.

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  • Travis

    Lock them out. Hire fast food workers to check, give them $15/hour like they want……win, win.
    P.s. If you dont know, union grocery checkers make upwards of $20/hour

    • K.T

      Obviously you don't know either….. union grocery checkers start at a little over minimum wage and it sometimes takes years to get a raise. There are checkers that have been there for 5 or more years that don't even make $12 an hour. The checkers that do make more than that have been there for 20 years.

      • krzy8

        Its all about the Obama health care requiring pt at 30 hrs plus to receive health care. Most would work 40 hrs if they were given to us. The stores will cut hrs even more to avoid giving employees health care. Very few employees have full time. Pay scales in these stores are at the same starting pay they were 13 yrs ago. The big corporations using the weak job market to fill there pockets could care less about there employees pockets. Cut our hours and make us pay for are own health insurance that would take me almost 2 weeks pay for obama care insurance. Pay me 15 plus and hour and give me more hours and I will buy my own health insurance.

  • strikes-r-stupid

    Rediculous. Unions work against the system. Kroger as a whole is one of the best places to work in the United States and I work at a non-union location, I have great benefits, competitive pay, and the hours are given fairly depending on how well you work, and your own availability. Unions force companies to put more money into the pot than a non-union company would have to, which drives costs up. Fred Meyer is all about its employees, and these kinds of negotiations simply negate their competitiveness but lumping them in with other retailers.

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