Area grocery workers protest over unfavorable union contract talks
Kevin Flynn, a meat cutter, stands in the shade during the UFCW protest Thursday, Aug. 1 outside of Fred Meyer.
MONROE — More than 60 grocery workers from the Teamsters and UFCW unions marched the North Kelsey sidewalk near Fred Meyer midday Aug. 1 to protest contract negotiations that have come to a stall.
Picket signs read “secure our pension,” “maintain our healthcare, and “a schedule we can count on.” The Monroe area grocery workers were part of a two-day informational protest at 32 sites in three counties that ended Aug. 1. They are employed by Safeway and Albertsons, and Kroger-owned Fred Meyer and QFC.
Tom Geiger, communications director for UFCW Local 21, said pay rates have not kept pace with cost of living, and the pay raise under contention, if granted, would impact the local economy.
“Regular working people, when you give them a $1 per hour raise, they’re going to spend” it, he said, because families that do not earn as much already need to take care of family needs.
In a statement representing Kroger and Safeway-Albertsons from the labor and employment relations firm Allied Employers, the firm’s president Scott Powers wrote: “We will be back in bargaining on Aug. 12 and the employers are focused on reaching an agreement on a fair contract that will provide our associates with a compensation package that includes good wages and maintains affordable health care, supportive benefits, paid time off, and a pension for retirement.”
The impasse for the most recent contract circles around pay, as well as safety, scheduling predictability, and protection of existing health care benefits and pension.
Grocery workers often get three days’ notice for schedules that can range from 20 to 40 hours that can include both day and night shifts, Geiger said.
Kevin Flynn, a meat cutter, held a sign that said, “Don’t take away my holiday pay.” His concerns were related to both family and a workplace tone. His son works in the meat-cutting trade as well.
“We want a good, stable, safe place to work where everyone is involved as a team,” Flynn said.
April Young, 15, said she was picketing to support her mom, and to plan ahead for her own working life. She intends to apply for grocery work as soon as she turns 16, she said, adding that the contract negotiations are “affecting everyone.”
Members are not yet scheduled to vote on a new contract, Geiger said. The unions are scheduled for three days of meetings from Aug. 12 to 14. “Our plan is for all the grocery store workers to be united for the best contract possible,” he said.
Geiger said regionally 63 percent of grocery workers are unionized. Workers at two other grocery stores in Monroe, Walmart and Grocery Outlet, are not unionized, Geiger said.
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