Grocery chains, employees resume contract talks

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SEATTLE — Grocery store employees across the Puget Sound are hoping to make headway in negotiations with local grocery store management.

Representatives from QFC, Safeway, Albertsons, and Fred Meyer companies are bargaining with unions Thursday and Friday. Grocery store employees with the UFCW and Teamsters unions hope to hammer out the details with employers over holiday pay, paid sick leave, salary and heath care.

grocersVoting members approved a strike authorization by 98 percent two weeks ago, and if talks between the unions and their employers stall, a strike could be looming.

If a deal isn’t reached this week, nearly 20,000 employees could walk off the job.

A representative for the workers said their patience is running thin. Their biggest sticking point is health insurance. QFC, Safeway, Fred Meyer and Albertsons want employees to contribute more money toward their premiums, but the signs are clear that is not something the employees are willing to accept.

“These guys are making billions, their CEO’s are making millions, and they want to cut the pay of some of their lowest paid workers,” UFCW spokesman Tom Geiger said. “I just don’t think that’s right.”

Geiger is hopeful a deal can be reached, but he’s preparing for a strike.

“If we don’t see any movement over the next couple of days, we could be in a situation where we’d give a 72-hour notice sometime this weekend,” he said. “We could see a strike happening sometime next week.”

If the union does strike, the Teamsters have vowed to respect the picket lines, meaning that food shipments might not be able to get to the stores, whether or not replacement cashiers and stockers are hired. The last time there was a grocery workers strike in Seattle was in 1989.


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