After negotiating off and on for six months, unions representing 21,000 Puget Sound-area grocery workers and representatives of four major grocery chains hoped that one more effort might prevent a strike.
The two sides met Thursday at a King County location to try to put together an agreement. No results from that session had been made public by late Thursday.
As negotiations resumed Thursday, many issues remained unresolved despite some movement over the weekend on pensions and health care, said the unions’ spokesman, Tom Geiger.
Wages, holidays, hours and other benefits remained on the table.
If those efforts prove fruitless, said Geiger, union workers could go on strike early next week. The workers would picket Safeway, Albertsons, QFC and Fred Meyer stores in Pierce, King, Thurston, Mason, Kitsap and Snohomish counties.
The unions and the stores by mutual agreement must give 72 hours of warning before declaring that the contract extension under which they’ve operated has ended.
Once a strike begins, it is unlikely to end quickly.
The last grocery workers strike in the Puget Sound area occurred in 1989, when workers were on the picket lines for 81 days. A 2003-04 grocery workers strike in Southern California lasted five months.
Striking workers would receive an average of $100 in weekly strike benefits from their union locals and $100 from the international union.
The unions involved — the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the Teamsters — have told their members to ramp up their strike preparations.
Meanwhile, the stores involved have been advertising for workers to replace the clerks and stockers who might walk off the job.
The Teamsters union has said it will honor the grocery workers’ picket lines, potentially cutting off or slowing down resupply of goods to the affected stores.
If workers do strike, they won’t strike independent grocers that employ union workers, such as Metropolitan Market, Red Apple and Thriftway. Those grocers have “me too” agreements, which call for them to agree to similar contracts as the big chains.
Other grocers such as Walmart, WinCo Foods and Whole Foods are non-union.
If the strike happens, picketing union members will hand out brochures to potential customers directing them to other stores not affected by the dispute.
The unions say employer proposals to freeze wages, cut holiday pay and trim benefits are unacceptable.
The grocers say they need cost savings to compete with non-union stores and to pay rising benefit costs.John Gillie: 253-597-8663 john.gillie@ thenewstribune.com