Clock ticks closer as grocery workers prepare to strike

Clock ticks closer as grocery workers prepare to strike
Countdown clock in Westlake Park, October 20, 2013. Photo courtesy: 2013 Grocery Bargaining UFCW 21 Facebook page.
SEATTLE - The clock is ticking closer to a grocery worker strike, as the 72 hour notice to strike expires at 7 p.m. Monday.

Unresolved issues include wages, holiday pay, health benefits, and would effect the over 21,000 Puget Sound-area grocery workers who say they just want to keep what they've earned.

"Negotiations are ongoing," the United Food and Commercial Workers Union 21 said in a Facebook post Sunday. "Our hope is that the employers will come to their senses and avoid a strike."

Without a deal, shoppers in Snohomish, King, Pierce, Thurston, Mason, and Kitsap will encounter picket lines at their neighborhood Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer, and Albertsons' stores.

"I'm stressed out about it," Safeway worker of 14 years Cathy Logston says. "I don't want to go on strike, but I want my benefits."

Workers and organizers gathered in Westlake Park Friday night to erect a giant countdown clock, and received support from the community over the weekend.

Community organizers launched a food donation drive Saturday night to support the striking workers, and say the donations have been rolling in.

"During a strike, workers will need support from the community, and part of that will be in the form of food donations," organizers said.

Allied Employers Vice President Scott Powers is the employers' lead negotiator.

In a statement, he says "the only way to work through the remaining issues is at the bargaining table." He says the companies remain committed to reaching an agreement that is good for both sides.

Grocery workers have taken comfort in the support they're receiving from local groups and customers. Monica Hill is one customer who says she plans to walk the picket lines with union members if they strike.

"These big stores have no right to be depriving people of a decent living," Hill says.

The last area grocery strike was in 1989 and lasted nearly three months.