Union grocery workers authorize strike

Union grocery workers authorize strike »Play Video
Grocery workers vote on whether to authorize a strike at supermarkets in King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties.
BELLEVUE, Wash. -- The possibility of a strike by grocery workers looms large after union members overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to authorize a strike.

The vote was 94% to reject a contract proposal from Fred Meyer, QFC, Albertsons and Safeway and give the union the approval to declare a strike - if necessary.

"We're working people, and we need something else than these cuts, cuts, cuts that they're bringing to us," QFC employee Janella Enamorado said Sunday.

It could make for chaotic shopping with Thanksgiving just two weeks away.

"You know, there's no better time than the holidays," Fred Meyer employee Dan Proulx. "Let's face it, after the first of the year, things slow down. If you're gonna put the hurt on an employer, this would be the time to do it."

The union is at a stalemate after nine months of negotiations with Safeway, Fred Meyer, Albertsons and QFC stopped in mid-October. Employees say the chains want to cut pay, hours, pension and health benefits -- and just in time for Thanksgiving, things are at a boiling point.

"Nobody wants to go on strike but they're pushing us," one worker said.

Most of the 25,000 employees are at stores in King, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. Also affected are grocery and meat workers in North Mason county and meat workers in Pierce and Thurston counties.

But the stores, represented by Allied Employers, claim a proposal to raise pay and put more money into pension and health plans is on table.

"I think we are ready to meet the needs of what the employees have," said Scott K. Powers with Allied Employers. "So I think we need to get back to the bargaining table and finish that process."

The last time grocery workers in our area went on strike was 1989. It lasted 81 days. With thousands of workers gone, supermarkets were forced to cut back their hours.

Both sides hope it won't come to that this year.