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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 5, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 27
Food fight - Grocery workers picket Harvard Market QFC
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Food fight - Grocery workers picket Harvard Market QFC

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

At least 60 grocery workers and supporters picketed the Harvard Market QFC at Broadway and Pike Street during lunch hour on July 3.

Chants of 'Stand! Together! Union! Power!' echoed at the busy intersection.

The workers were joined by State Sen. Ed Murray and City Council member Bruce Harrell - both candidates for mayor of Seattle - as well as community activist Rev. Harriett Walden and members of Pride At Work, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, the National Organization for Women, and the Seattle Education Association.

According to UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) Local 21, the union that represents workers at the Harvard Market QFC and other grocery stores in Western Washington, the picket was 'informational,' intended to alert consumers to their stalled negotiations with the major grocery chains, and not meant to interfere with business.

Eleven other QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Albertson's stores in Western Washington were also picketed by members of UFCW Locals 21 and 367, and Teamsters Local 38.

HOLIDAY PAY AT ISSUE
The unions said July 3 was chosen for the informational picketing because employers want to eliminate time-and-a-half pay for holidays like July 4, and instead pay only one dollar per hour more for holiday work.

The grocery chains also want to cut starting pay from the current 10 cents per hour above minimum wage, eliminate wage increases for the most senior employees, and take away health insurance from employees working less than 30 hours per week.

The three unions have been in contract negotiations with the behemoth grocery chains since March, but they say that little or no progress had been made.

When their contract was last up for negotiation in 2010, employers did not settle until 94% of UFCW 21 members voted to strike just before Thanksgiving.

The current round of contract negotiations involves only Kroger (which owns QFC and Fred Meyer), Safeway, and Albertson's. Other union grocery stores typically sign contracts very similar to the ones negotiated with the 'Big Three' employers.

A list of union grocery stores is available at www.ufcw21.org/know/shop-union#grocery.

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