Grocery store workers at the big chains stores in central Puget Sound gathered for vote meetings throughout the Snohomish, King and Kitsap Counties over the past several days to consider a vote to reject employers’ proposal and take a strike authorization vote. The last of these meeting took place on Wednesday evening in Bellevue. After the meeting all the ballots were counted.
The vote result: 94% Reject Employers’ Proposal and Authorize a Strike
Difficult negotiations between workers and these big chains have been dragging on since they began nine months ago in mid-March. The out-of-state-based corporations include California-based Safeway, Albertsons (owned by Minnesota-based Supervalu), and QFC and Fred Meyer (both owned by Cincinnati-based food giant Kroger).
These out-of-state based chains are among the Top 50 corporations in the country and paid their CEOs a combined 30 millions dollars last year. The grocery stores have not been hit as hard by the economy as many other companies because families have switched to shopping at the store more and eating out at restaurants less.
“All we are asking for is to be treated fairly,” said Barbara Rhodes, a deli worker at QFC. “But something is wrong in this country when the company that we work for pays their CEO millions and then proposes to cut our pay, and health and pension benefits. We go to work every day and do the best for our customers. All we want is to do a good job and be able to take care of our families.”
Another worker added, “Unfortunately, these corporations are trying to use the economy as an excuse to kick us in the teeth. So after nine months of negotiations, we have taken this vote and are sending a message – we are not going accepts cut after cut.” Lynnette Larson, a checker at Fred Meyer continued, “We are standing up and saying no. It’s important for us, for our customers and the community.”
Now that the workers have spoken and rejected the current offer, clearly the employers will have to improve the contract proposal when negotiations resume.
The UFCW 21 is the state’s largest private sector union with over 36,000 workers in grocery store, retail, health care and other industry jobs. The two other unions in the joint negotiations are UFCW 81 and Teamsters 38.