Oregon and Southwest Washington grocery store workers with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 voted on behalf of over 20,000 workers on Saturday to approve a strike at local Fred Meyer, Albertsons, Safeway and QFC stores over low wages and an alleged gender pay gap.
The votes add to the roughly 10,000 Portland-area grocery employees with the UFCW Local 555 who last month authorized a strike. But no strike will occur unless the union formally calls for one.
The union alleges that women employees at Fred Meyer are more likely to be placed in leadership positions, but make less per hour than men in the same roles. It also claims women are placed on lower pay scale schedules.
A union spokesperson, Kelley McAllister, says it's not clear yet when a strike might start. A union negotiation team plans to meet with company executives on Thursday for a bargaining session, after which union members will provide more information on strike options.
"We need a sea change in the perception of how much our workers matter," Dan Clay, UFCW Local 555's president said in a statement. "None of these stores could remain open, much less rake in profits for execs and stockholders, if it weren't for our Union-proud members working tirelessly to keep everything up and running. These are valued members of our community, and they should be paid as such."
18 Oregon legislators—including Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland), House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), and Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland)—have issued statements in support of UFCW Local 555's wage protest.
"I'm proud to stand with the dedicated grocery store workers who are fighting for fair wages and respect in the workplace," Kotek said in a statement. "Albertsons, Fred Meyer and Safeway must to do better."
A spokesperson for Fred Meyer, Jeffery Temple, denies the allegation that women employees are paid less than men.
"The recent statements about an alleged pay gap based on gender between women and men working at Fred Meyer are simply not true," Temple said in a statement, "and we see them as an unfortunate misrepresentation of our associates."
Temple acknowledged that some Fred Meyer jobs pay higher than others due to " the type of work and the hours requirements," but that the company wants "women to apply for these types of jobs and we do not funnel workers to any job type based on their gender."
"Every associate in a same job type, whether a woman or a man, is paid equally based on the wage progressions that have been negotiated for them by the union," Temple said.
A spokesperson for Albertsons, which owns Safeway, did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.