Thousands of grocery store workers voting whether to strike

Thousands of grocery store workers voting whether to strike »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Your next trip to the grocery store could require passing through a picket line as tens of thousands of workers were voting Wednesday evening whether to authorize a strike over stalled contract talks.

Stores like QFC say if workers do walk off the job, they still plan to serve customers. But that could involve stores run by replacement workers or reduced operating hours unless they can get back to the bargaining table.

The strike vote comes as grocery store workers say they've reached the last straw.

"Nothing has happened," said Cary Bade. "So what choice do we have?"

Tens of thousands of workers at Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC and Albertson's are casting ballots that could lead to a walk-out and picket lines.

Some shoppers stand by the workers and would buy groceries elsewhere.

"I think all these stores are making very good for themselves, so they can give to others," said Ruti Zahavi.

Union members are upset the company wants to reduce holiday pay, hold wages at current rates, and force part-time workers to get health benefits through the new government health care plan.

"I think the corporation is more interested in making money for the investors than they are treating the employees well," Bade said.

A grocery store spokesperson says the strike authorization vote is premature because neither side has put out a best and final offer.

"If there would be a labor dispute, these companies will have contingency plans, like they would for any other emergency to make sure they can still service their customers," said Scott Powers with Allied Employers.

Stores throughout Puget Sound could be affected with shorter hours or closing some locations.

"It would be inconvenient," said Kelley Garcia.

The results of the strike authorization vote will be announced Thursday morning.