GroceryStrike.JPG
Grocery shopping during the holidays is annoying enough already. There are the crowds, the cheesy decorations and the toy hungry children running amok. So what's

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Grocery Worker Strike Looms Over Holiday Shopping Season

GroceryStrike.JPG
Grocery shopping during the holidays is annoying enough already. There are the crowds, the cheesy decorations and the toy hungry children running amok. So what's one thing that could make the experience even worse? How about a massive strike in which grocery workers won't be inside helping you pick out a good turkey, but outside telling you how the store you're shopping at is run by greedy, corporate fascists?

That scenario is looking more and more likely after nine months of negotiations between Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and QFC stores have failed to produce a new contract for employees represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.

The union held the first of several strike authorization votes on Sunday, which will be followed by another set of votes today, two more on Tuesday and a final vote on Wednesday.

By Thursday, all the votes will be counted. And, depending on what they say, more than 25,000 workers in King, Snohomish and Kitsap Counties could walk off the job, just in time for the holidays.

The Daily Weekly talked with UFCW Local 21 spokesman Tom Geiger today about the plans. He says it comes down to employers cutting too many hours and taking too long to come up with a decent offer for a new contract.

"Negotiations have been going on for nine months and the employers are still only offering cuts in pay, pension and health benefits," he says. "It's definitely a tough economy. But the employers are trying to use that as an excuse to get cuts through, even though all the companies are still making millions."

The companies are indeed making money, though the amount they're making has been up and down. Safeway, for example, posted quarterly net income in October of $122.8 million, which was down 4.7 percent over the previous quarter.

Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer and QFC stores, however, posted net income for the same quarter of $261.6 million--a 2.8 percent increase over the previous quarter.

We also put a call in to Allied Employers, a negotiations firm that's representing the grocery chains, but have yet to hear back.

We'll update as soon as the phone rings.

UPDATE: Scott Powers, vice president for Allied Employers called the Daily Weekly to downplay the threat of a strike, saying: "Any talk of a strike is premature."

He also blamed the union for the difficulties in reaching an agreement.

"We were making progress at bargaining table and the union decided to walk away," he said. "We think that for them to be complaining that it's taking to long is ridiculous. Things are tight. And in this economy, we have to find a way to have a contract that meets the needs of employees and employers."

 
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