Grocery store workers ponder strike amid stalled negotiations

Grocery store workers ponder strike amid stalled negotiations »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Grocery store workers in three counties are getting ready for a possible strike that could affect the busy Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Safeway, Fred Meyer, Albertson's and QFC in Snohomish and Kitsap counties have broken off bargaining talks with their 25,000 represented employees around the Puget Sound area. Grocery and meat workers in north Mason County, as well as meat workers in Pierce and Thurston counties are also affected.

As a result, the union is now planning to take a strike authorization vote in the next few days.

"Our employers have proposed to cut our pay, cut our medical and our pension. That's all very serious," said grocery clerk Tasha West-Baker.

West-Baker is the solo wage earner for her family of five. The grocery store operators say there are hundreds of out-of-work people who would be glad to take her place if she strikes. But that's a chance West-Baker feels she must take.

"If that happens, it will be worth it. It will be worth it," she said. "My family will make sacrifices, just like many others. But it will be a worthy sacrifice."

"It's time to send a message to these employers, 'This is not acceptable. We're not going to accept cuts to pay, cuts to benefits," said Tom Geiger of UFCW Local 21.

But the bargaining group for the grocery stores says the stores are putting more money into those areas, just not as much as the union wants.

"We think it's premature to even be talking about a strike. Really what we need to do is get back to the bargaining table so we can resolve the issues," said Scott Powers of Allied Employers.

And the grocery chains say they didn't walk away from the bargaining table; the unions did. The chains added they're ready to resume negotiations.

But the unions say it's already had nine months of talking, and now is time for action in the way of a strike authorization vote.