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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,9 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 32
No progress for grocery workers, union says
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No progress for grocery workers, union says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

After five months of bargaining, there has been no progress toward a new contract for workers at the 'Big Three' grocery chains - Safeway, Albertson's, and Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer.

In fact, the two sides seem further apart than ever.

According to UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) Local 21, one of the unions that represents grocery workers in Western Washington, 'employers are attempting to fundamentally change the structure of the contract.'

Some 30,000 grocery workers represented by UFCW Locals 21 and 367, and Teamsters Local 38, are affected by the contract negotiations.

The unions charge that the Big Three are proposing nothing but 'very significant pay cuts and benefit reductions.' For example, the employers are proposing to take away time-and-a-half pay for employees who work on holidays, and substitute only $1 per hour extra pay.

Employers are also proposing to take away all health insurance for employees who work less than 30 hours per week, and are systematically reducing hours for many workers below the 30-hour threshold.

'Their vision for the industry is one in which workers are increasingly part-time, with grossly inadequate pay and benefits,' UFCW 21 said in an August 8 statement. 'They are trying to build their own version of a Walmart business model. All of this is happening at a time the major grocery corporations are profitable and their CEOs are raking in huge salaries.'

ANOTHER PICKET PLANNED
Grocery workers and community supporters held informational pickets at 12 Puget Sound-area locations on July 3, and the unions are now calling for a second - and expanded - round of picketing.

Pickets will hit 34 locations on August 28, the unions said, promising to 'escalate our actions to a level not seen in this area for almost 25 years.' As yet, no strike vote has been taken and the picketing will be only to communicate information to store shoppers.

In the last round of grocery negotiations three years ago, employers did not agree to a contract until union members voted 94% in favor of strike authorization.

UFCW 21 is the largest private-sector local in the state and was one of the key labor supporters of Referendum 74, donating money, staff time, and office space to the campaign for marriage equality.

Spokespeople for Safeway and Kroger were invited to comment for this article, but they declined to do so.

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