Grocery store workers' union, employers battle over higher wages

Jeff White, a union representative for workers in Lane County, said workers have already voted to strike but say they don't have any plans to walk out yet.

Posted: Sep 12, 2019 6:36 PM
Updated: Sep 12, 2019 6:56 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- Thousands of Oregon grocery store workers and their employers are preparing for the worst over a battle for higher wages.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 (UFCW Local 555) has been in negotiations with Fred Meyer, Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons for over a year.

Jeff White, a union representative for workers in Lane County, said workers have already voted to strike but they don't have any plans to walk out yet. He said along with a living wage, they want to close what he called a gender pay gap.

"It's important to our members so they can afford to live and raise their families," White said. "It's important also that people get paid for the work they do."

Meanwhile, Fred Meyer has posted signs in their stores that say they are seeking replacement workers as a precautionary measure due to the potential labor dispute.

A spokesperson for Fred Meyer told KEZI 9 News they and the other companies are negotiating with the union and they don't want to see a strike. They said a strike hasn't happened at their stores since 1994.

According to the company's website, their last offer included a minimum 30 cents an hour raise every year for three years, but they didn't provide the pay scale in their previous contract.

White said workers here in Lane county make between $11.60 to $15.98 an hour.

He said a strike will only be done as a last resort but said they might call on customers to boycott the companies if negotiations fail.

Fred Meyer shopper Dwain Watkins hopes a deal can be made soon.

"It's unfortunate that it's come to this point, but I hope they can work something out soon," Watkins said.

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