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Grocery Workers Give 72-Hour Strike Notice

Bob B. Brown

About 21,000 grocery workers at QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Albertsons in the Puget Sound region have given notice that they plan to go on strike in 72 hours. 

That shows the two sides failed to reach agreement on a new contract, in spite of renewed negotiations this past week. Union officials have said the companies want to restrict health insurance to employees who work 30 hours a week or more, in addition to essentially freezing wages. 

The companies have argued that they're facing increasing competition, especially from non-union stores that offer fewer benefits. Walmart, for example, offers health insurance to full-time workers after they've been on the job six months. Part-timers who work at least 30 hours a week on average qualify for health benefits after a year. 

Union officials say, by contrast, the previous contract allowed workers to get health coverage if they worked 16 hours a week or more. 

In a statement, the companies' lead negotiator, Scott Powers, said the only way to work through the remaining issues is at the bargaining table.

"These companies remain focused and committed to reach an agreement that is good for our associates, providing them a solid compensation package of pay and benefits; and good for the companies, too, so they can be competitive and continue to provide good, stable jobs," he said in an email.

The last major grocery strike in the Seattle region took place in 1989 and lasted 81 days. 

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.