By Don McIntosh
Workers at many Fred Meyer and QFC stores in Oregon will soon be voting on whether to authorize a strike. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 is holding meetings in Portland, Tigard, Bend, and Klamath Falls starting Dec. 10 to discuss and vote on that question.
Both grocery chains are owned by Kroger. Many of its contracts with the union expired in August, and workers under those expired contracts are the ones voting. The agreements were reached two years ago, six days into a union boycott of Fred Meyer.
Kroger representatives last met with the Local 555 negotiating team Nov. 10-11, the fourth time the two sides had met. Local 555 is proposing to restore time-and-a-half holiday pay for all employees, eliminating an existing two-tier arrangement. It’s also proposing that Kroger guarantee that a minimum proportion of positions be full time, above the current ratio.
The two sides did reach tentative agreement on one item, the right of store-level safety committees to escalate issues to a new master safety committee between Kroger and the union. Local 555 says recent violent acts near some stores—including an active shooter incident—have highlighted the need for better safety policies.
The two sides are next scheduled to meet Dec. 6 and 7.
In past contracts, Kroger has bargained together with the other big grocery chain, Safeway/Albertsons, but this year the employers chose to bargain separately.