Portland-Area Grocery Store Workers Vote to Authorize Strike Over Low Wages

“I, along with our member-comprised bargaining team, believe our hard-working members deserve much, much more.”

Onion and garlic produce at a grocery store in Fairfax, Virginia, on March 3, 2011. (USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.)

Portland-area grocery store workers want to go on strike in protest of low wages.

Last month, roughly 10,000 Portland-area workers with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 voted to authorize a strike against Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway. Employees in other Oregon towns and Southwest Washington will vote this month and next, according to a statement from UFCW Local 555, and "a final decision will not be made until all votes from across the jurisdiction are aggregated."

No demonstration will occur unless a majority of union members vote to authorize a strike and the union formally calls for one.

"Based on next round of bargaining, we'll see what happens," Kelley McAllister, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 555, says.

Workers oppose the company's resistance to increase wages. Union negotiations have been underway for over a year.

"The employers seem to be under the impression that our members will be thrilled with increases of nickels and dimes," Dan Clay, president of UFCW Local 555 said in a statement. "I, along with our member-comprised bargaining team, believe our hard-working members deserve much, much more. A strike vote identifies where our membership stands on this issue."

UFCW Local 555 represents nearly 25,000 workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. It is the largest private sector labor union in Oregon and was formed in 1985.

The union also alleges that Fred Meyer pays women employees $3.70 per hour less than their male counterparts on average.

"Fred Meyer's own data demonstrates that they are overwhelmingly likely to hire women into these lower-paid positions," UFCW Local 555's statement reads.

Kelley McAllister, a spokesperson for UFCW Local 555, says the wage increase the union is negotiating is confidential to employees and that it is "making sure everyone who is voting knows what they are voting for and whether they are more comfortable with the amount we are negotiating for or the amount the employer is negotiating for."

In a statement, Dennis Gibson, president of Fred Meyer Stores, Inc., said, " Our goals, always, are to reach an agreement that provides a solid package of wages, benefits and a stable pension plan for our valued associates that allows our company to remain competitive despite disruption from the grocery industry."

A spokesperson for Alberstsons, which also owns Safeway, did not respond to request for comment.

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