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Grocery workers picket to raise regional awareness
Members of three unions representing grocery store workers in the Puget Sound region took to the streets on Aug. 28, picketing to raise awareness about ongoing contract negotiations with several local grocery stores, including the Auburn Safeway and Fred Meyer stores.
According to United Food and Commercial Workers 21 Union Communications Director Tom Geiger, more than 30,000 union grocery workers and members of UFCW 21, UFCW 367 and Teamsters 38 are in contract negotiations with several large grocery chains – including Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and QFC – as well as several regional union stores.
"They've been in negotiations since March, and unfortunately, things haven't progressed that well," Geiger said.
The main sticking points at the bargaining table are health care coverage, holiday pay and sick leave, Geiger said.
"The CEOs of these companies have continued to support proposals that would eliminate health care for thousands of workers, just cut it completely, as well as raise the cost for others," he said.
Geiger said that the proposals from the stores would cut health care for employees who work less than 30 hours a week.
Additionally, Geiger said, the stores are proposing to cut current holiday pay from time-and-a-half for employees to just one dollar above their normal wage and continue to deny paid sick days to employees.
"One out of two employees have reported coming to work sick because they didn't have sick time," Geiger said. "That's no good for the workers, their families or the customers. We just want a fair deal."
Geiger added that the unions have scheduled possible strike votes toward the end of September.
"The nature of the votes hasn't been determined yet," he said. "But the we need to see some significant progress. If we don't, it could be a strike authorization vote."
"This kind of negotiation is not unfamiliar to what is happening across the country," Geiger said. "They're just trying to cut their costs. The problem is the companies are making billions, and the CEOs are making millions. Most people don't think that's fair."
Allied Employers, the Bellevue company handling negotiations for the grocery chains, did not reply to an e-mail requesting comment for this story.