Seattle-area grocery workers to take strike authorization vote

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by KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 3, 2010 at 1:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 3 at 6:22 PM

SEATTLE – About 25,000 grocery store workers from four big chains will vote next week on whether to authorize a strike.

After about nine months of failed negotiations, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union will hold a series of meetings next week. Union leaders are recommending that members reject the stores’ latest offer and vote to authorize a strike.

The union members work at Safeway, Albertsons, QFC and Fred Meyer.

“Our workers are struggling,” said Matt Kenyon, a 23-year Safeway employee and member of the union’s bargaining team.  “We’re not asking to get rich here, we’re just asking to have a fair wage increase.”

Wages, pension and health care all remain major sticking issues, Kenyon said.  If union members vote to authorize a strike, another vote would be needed before the workers would actually go on strike.  Kenyon said it’s possible that could happen by Thanksgiving, which is a busy time for grocery stores.

 A spokesman for the stores called it “unfortunate” the union broke off negotiations.

“We think employees should show up at the union’s meetings and make their voices heard and go back to the bargaining table,” said Scott K. Powers, vice president of Allied Employers, which represents the four chains. 

The stores would have a contingency plan in case of a strike, Powers said, “but we think it’s way premature to even be talking about a strike.”

If workers did go on strike, independent stores, like M Street Grocery in Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood, would likely benefit. 

“If they struck and they had pickets out front, anybody that feels uncomfortable crossing the picket line would obviously not go to the store,” said Matt Randish, M Street’s owner.

While it would be good in the short term, Randish has experienced strikes in the past and says it is not something he would wish on even his biggest competitors.

“Nobody wins,” he said.  “Nobody wins.”

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