SEATTLE — Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 21 here and two other locals have opted to authorize a strike by votes exceeding 98%.
The contracts, which cover approximately 20,000 workers at about 225 stores in the Seattle and Tacoma areas, expired in early May and early August. No talks have been held since mid-September, and none are currently scheduled, Tom Geiger, communications director for Local 21, told SN.
Speaking on behalf of Allied Employers, the management group that represents Albertsons, Safeway and two Kroger-owned chains — Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers — Scott Powers dismissed the significance of the strike vote, saying it was "not unusual."
"The important thing is that we get back to the bargaining table and do the hard work of putting a negotiated settlement together."
According to Geiger, the major issues in the talks include management proposals to require part-time workers, who comprise approximately 50% of the work force, to get health benefits through the Affordable Health Care Act; to freeze wages at the rates negotiated in the 2010 contracts; to eliminate premium pay for holidays and evenings; and to continue not to pay for sick days (an issue that was eliminated in the city of Seattle by a municipal law passed since the last contract negotiations but which has no impact on workers in stores outside the city).
Eighty per cent of the affected workers are members of UFCW Local 21; approximately 10% are represented by UFCW Local 367 in Tacoma, and the balance by Teamsters Local 38, which covers store workers in Snohomish County outside Seattle.
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