Major grocers and unions representing some 20,000 Puget Sound-area clerks and other grocery staffers meet Wednesday in another effort to head off a regionwide grocery strike.
Another 1,000 grocery workers might join that throng after voting Tuesday on whether to allow union leaders authority to call a strike if talks collapse. Those workers are employed in major grocery chains in Thurston and Mason counties. The results of that vote are expected to be announced Wednesday morning.
The 20,000 union grocery workers in Pierce, King, Kitsap and Snohomish counties last month voted 98 percent in favor of giving union leaders authority to call a strike. Those workers are employed by Safeway, Albertsons, QFC and Fred Meyer stores.
United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Tom Geiger said Tuesday that the unions and grocers negotiated last weekend before recessing to allow both sides’ accountants and attorneys to explore the feasibility of a new proposal for pension benefits that emerged during the weekend sessions.
Geiger said much remains to be resolved in the talks including wages, hours and some benefits.
If the two sides reach an agreement, that contract will affect more than the 21,000 workers in those four grocery chains.
Another 9,000 or so Puget Sound grocery workers are employed by independent union grocery chains such as Thriftway and Metropolitan Markets that have signed so-called “me-too” agreements, saying they will accept similar contracts as the major union grocery chains.
The unions and Allied Employers, which represents the grocers, have been negotiating since May.
If the union workers strike the large chains, the independent union stores won’t be picketed.
Several grocers including Walmart, Costco, WinCo and Trader Joe’s are nonunion operations.
The unions say the grocers have proposed freezing wages, cutting holiday pay and other cost-saving measures.
Grocers say higher costs and nonunion competition is causing them to look for money-saving strategies.John Gillie: 253-597-8663 firstname.lastname@example.org