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Is Seattle Heading for a Grocery Store Strike?

Bob B. Brown

About 30,000 grocery store workers in the Puget Sound region will be voting next week on whether to authorize a strike. That’s after the bargaining team decided to recommend a strike vote, saying they made no progress in bargaining earlier this week.

The contracts being negotiated cover workers at Fred Meyer, QFC, Albertsons and Safeway. They’re represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Teamsters.

The unions had long ago set next week as the date to vote on a proposal, but this week they added the strike authorization vote. 

"Unfortunately, the proposals that have been made and continue to be made by the employers just attack the very core of the benefits of having these jobs," UFCW spokesman Tom Geiger said.

Geiger says the supermarkets only want to offer health insurance to people who work 30 hours a week. That compares with 16 hours a week under the old contracts for individual coverage, 20 hours a week to qualify for family coverage. And he says the companies have offered no wage increases.

Scott Powers is negotiating on behalf of the grocery stores. He says it’s premature to send these proposals out for a vote.

"We haven’t made a last, best and final offer, so unfortunately this has become common in negotiations where they go out and take this vote," Powers said. "So we’re going to let them have their process, but bargaining has to happen at the bargaining table."

The workers will be voting from Sunday until next Wednesday. If they vote to authorize a strike, there’s a 72-hour waiting period before they could actually walk out.

In 1989, grocery store workers went on strike for 81 days in Seattle. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.