Grocery strike averted as workers pass new contract

It came down to a final few tense hours on Oct. 21 as over 20,000 grocery workers in Western Washington – including many in West Seattle – waited to hear whether they would be walking out on their jobs to begin a strike or whether their union reps and employers would come to an agreement.

At 5 p.m., with less than two hours to go, that agreement was reached and the strike was temporarily averted.

Negotiations between grocery workers reps with UFCW 21 (representing West Seattle), UFCW 367 and Teamsters 38 met on agreeable terms with Safeway, QFC, Alberton’s and Fred Meyer, but the agreement still needed a vote by the workers.

Over two days on Oct. 29 and 30 the workers themselves had a chance to vote on the new agreement, and UFCW21 reported on Oct. 31, “Grocery store workers … voted by an overwhelming majority over the last two days to pass a new contract.”

“Workers, shoppers and community supporters all across the region stood together against the drastic proposals by big national chains and won a contract with increased wages for all workers, protected health benefits with no increases in costs to workers’ premiums or deductibles, and secured pensions,” union spokesman Tom Geiger said in a press release.

Dave Schmitz, president of UFCW 21 representing local workers, said, “I started working in the grocery business over 40 years ago. The proposals we saw this time from the employers were some of the worst I have ever seen. They tried to turn us into Walmart. They did not succeed.”

Allied Employers, labor relations advisors hired to represent the employers, issued a statement after the tentative agreement was reached that said it “continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care for our employees.”

Negotiations on the new contract started over five months ago.

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