By DON McINTOSH
Starting 6 a.m. Dec. 17, over 7,000 Fred Meyer and QFC workers in and around Portland, Bend, Newberg, and Klamath Falls walked off the job to begin a strike. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 planned for a five-day strike during one of the busiest shopping times of the year. But parent company Kroger had enough on Day One, and made a contract offer that Local 555 says will be the best it’s ever had. Union members ratified the new set of agreements in a series of votes held Dec. 22 to 30.
Over its three-year term, the agreements will raise wages $3 an hour for all journey-level employees, and $5.05 an hour for employees who work in what Fred Meyer calls “CCK,” which stands for central checkout. Those cashiers, mostly female, have been underpaid compared to cashiers on the grocery side. Now they’ll be paid the same as of Aug. 7, 2022. The new agreements phase out separate contracts for CCK and fold them into the grocery contracts.
People in the community were amazing. They came out, they brought us coffee. Some of them carried picket signs.” —Hawthorne Fred Meyer employee Annette Lowman
For workers whose contracts were expired, the first-year raises are retroactive, and they’ll get a lump sum in the next 90 days to make them whole for the raises they would have gotten if agreement had been reached sooner.
Before the strike, bargaining had dragged on for months without agreement. The strike—the first Fred Meyer strike by Local 555 members in 27 years—appears to have made all the difference in getting an offer the union could recommend to members.
“I was just so impressed with the camaraderie and how everybody was so connected in this cause,” said Annette Lowman, 73, a Hawthorne Fred Meyer employee who collects groceries for online orders. “It was extremely positive just to feel like I was a part of something.”
“And people in the community were amazing,” Lowman said. “They came out, they brought us coffee. Some of them carried picket signs.”
The new set of agreements run from Aug. 8, 2021 to Aug. 10, 2024. The settlement applies to all Fred Meyer workers in Local 555’s jurisdiction of Oregon and Southwest Washington.