The recent strike authorization against Fred Meyers and QFC comes amid a growing string of union action, and victories.
Grocery workers across Oregon and Southwest Washington voted this weekend to authorize a strike, claiming unfair labor practices by Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers (QFC).
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, which held the vote, represents approximately 29,000 workers across four states.
The strike authorization comes on the heels of successful union activity across Oregon, and the country. Last month, Kroger employees in Texas authorized a strike before the Thanksgiving holiday. With unions showing an increased willingness to authorize strikes, and companies facing labor shortages that have not yet abated, the strike authorization could be an indication that the increased labor activity of the last two years has become the new normal.
Union leaders at the UFCW 555 say they are negotiating for improvements to healthcare, worker safety, and increased wages. Union representatives have been in negotiations with Kroger since July, and have accused parent company Kroger of violating federal labor law by withholding information from the union it could use in the bargaining process.
“Fred Meyer and QFC have repeatedly violated their legal duties to negotiate in good faith with Local 555, with the most blatant example being Fred Meyer’s refusal to provide information necessary for the Union to negotiate a new agreement and to process grievances,” UFCW 555 President Dan Clay wrote in a statement announcing the strike vote.
“The way these employers have violated the National Labor Relations Act has left grocery workers no choice but to take action.”
Two years ago the UFCW called for a boycott of Fred Meyer amid tense negotiations with the grocer.
It is not only grocery store workers that have shown an increased willingness to play hardball with employers. Last month, the Oregon Federation of Nursing and Health Professionalsauthorized a strike against Kaiser Permanente, forcing the healthcare provider to drop its proposed two-tier pay system which would have lowered wages for incoming employees. Fast food chain Burgerville became the first fast food chain in the nation to have a union.
“It’s business as usual at Fred Meyer,” the company said in a statement to media. “A strike authorization doesn’t mean a strike. Our current offer shows our commitment to the whole person, providing increases, high-quality, affordable health care, and a pension benefit for retirement. The most productive thing the union can do is to work with the company in a manner that positively addresses these items. our focus remains on our associates and getting an agreement at the bargaining table.”
A spokesperson for Kroger told the magazine that the company remains “committed to following all labor laws and legal requirements and will remain steadfast in our commitment.”
Graham Trainor, president of the Oregon AFL/CIO, says grocery store workers have always been essential workers, and accused Kroger of treating them as “expendable.” Trainor also expressed confidence that the increased labor activity over the last two years is here to stay, both in Oregon and across the country.
“Workers across the state and across our economy are fed up with the status quo, and rightly expect to be treated with dignity after helping their employers make record profits over the last 20 months,” says Trainor. “They are standing up, and workers everywhere have their back.”
It’s not clear when a strike would happen, but union representatives told Oregon Public Broadcasting they could walk out as soon as Friday.
To subscribe to Oregon Business, click here.