PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Video of a group of women dancing and singing to demand equal pay at a Northeast Portland grocery store is going viral.
Dressed as Rosie the Riveter, the women sang “Respect” by Aretha Franklin before an audience of shoppers at Fred Meyer on Northeast Weidler Street.
The protest took place Friday. Video of the event had gone viral on social media by Saturday.
In a statement, the OWLL addressed wage gap concerns.
“We have heard claims from Fred Meyer that such a wage gap does not exist, but we know through data collected by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 that women are twice as likely to be placed onto a lower paying schedule,” wrote the OWLL. “This is unacceptable to the community that has supported Fred Meyer by shopping there over the years That’s why we held our action yesterday and that’s why we will continue to deliver the message that it’s time for equal pay and to fix the gap at Fred Meyer, which is textbook gender discrimination. Until the voices of underpaid women are heard and the wage gap is remedied, we will raise ours in support.”
Many Fred Meyer shoppers who watched the video of the protest the following day expressed support for the cause and the protesters’ approach.
“Whatever they can do to get attention to the issue, which seems pretty important,” said shopper Kim Bordon.
“They’re pretty much fighting for what they want — that’s what they want so hopefully they can get it,” said shopper Chez Sampson.
Fred Meyer fired back against the OWLL’s allegations and the women’s flash mob tactics in an email sent to KOIN 6 News.
“We view allegations about Fred Meyer paying women less than men as untrue and misleading,” wrote Jefferey Temple, director of corporate affairs for Fred Meyer. “Obstructing customers in our stores does not help the labor negotiation process.”
Fred Meyer has previously stated the pay it offers temporary workers does not include healthcare.
Meanwhile, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 said contract negotiations have stalled after 15 months. Contract extensions for CCK departments were canceled across Oregon and Southwest Washington at the end of August.
UFCW Local 555 said Fred Meyer then threatened employees and started seeking replacement workers at a rate of $15/hour, which is more than current employees make.
“The replacement workers they are hiring, they’re hiring them at $15 an hour, which is more than most people can cap out at at Fred Meyer,” said an employee who wanted to remain anonymous. “So for instance, even if I were to work here for like years, I would cap out at $14.40, $14.30 — and they’re offering $15 right off the bat for people who come and cover those. So everyone was like ‘are you kidding?'”
It’s unclear if shoppers will have to cross picket lines in the future. The union said its next negotiation days with Fred Meyer are scheduled for Sept. 26 and 27.