union negotiations
1:01 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Union for Local Grocery Workers in Talks

Talks resumed Thursday between grocery stores and the union representing more than 20,000 of their workers at QFC, Safeway, Fred Meyer, and Albertson’s. If the talks fail, the union could go on strike. And that has grocery stores preparing to hire replacements.

A sign outside a Safeway store in lower Queen Anne advertises for temporary workers for $12 an hour. The reason: a “potential labor dispute.” Tom Geiger, a spokesman for the grocery workers, says he’s not surprised.

“They don’t necessarily really mean that much. It’s just kind of part of the playbook,” he said.

In a union vote at the end of September, 98 percent of grocery workers favored going on strike. Geiger says the talks are an attempt to avoid that.

“The hope is that the negotiators from these big national grocery chains will take that vote seriously, and respect their workers and change their proposals in a very significant way,” Geiger said.

In particular, the union wants the stores to maintain health care for employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week.

Scott Powers of Allied Employers, representing the stores, wrote in a statement that the companies want to reach a deal that’s good for workers and also helps the chains remain competitive.

If the talks are unsuccessful, 20,000 workers could strike in King, Pierce, Kitsap, and Snohomish counties.