Grocery strike could disrupt holiday shopping


by JOE FRYER / KING 5 News

Posted on November 9, 2010 at 6:31 PM

SEATTLE - Events like the Seattle Career Fair are proof that there are jobs out there, but there are also plenty of people looking for those jobs. 

"It's been pretty difficult in the sense that I feel like a lot of people are in the same kind-of boat," said job hunter Megan Allen.

If workers at Safeway, QFC, Albertson's and Fred Meyer choose to strike, those stores could have more openings, at least in the short-term.

Of course, not everyone wants work that badly.

"No, I probably wouldn't apply for a grocery worker job, just personally, if they were going on strike, I'd just kind-of support that," said Allen.

The economy today is quite different than it was in 1989 when the last grocery workers strike occurred. That strike lasted nearly three months.

"Well, I think everybody knows that the economy is a little bit more troublesome, so there's relatively high unemployment rate, that's going to make it tough for getting public sympathy," said Dan Jacoby, a labor expert at the University of Washington Bothell. 

He says if there's a strike in this economy, grocery stores should not have trouble finding willing workers, but skilled workers could be a bit harder to come by. 

As for the union, he says the power to disrupt the holidays might be their best bargaining chip.

"I think they've got to demonstrate they've got the workers behind them. And if they've got the workers behind them, if they're willing to go out in large numbers, then I think they're going to have strength.  If the workers themselves are not sure they want to go on strike, then that's going to be a problem," he said.

Even if the union votes to authorize a strike, that doesn't mean a strike is going to happen. One more vote would be needed before workers would actually go on strike.

The stores say contingency plans would be in place for a strike, but right now they want to return to the bargaining table