PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thousands of Fred Meyer and QFC employees, alleging unsafe and unfair workplace environments, went on a one-week strike Friday morning after talks with parent company Kroger broke down.
Local 555, a union that represents nearly 30,000 workers here in Oregon, approved the strike. They allege that Fred Meyer and QFC have committed multiple unfair labor practices in their companies. Strikes are set for stores located in Portland, Bend, Newberg and Klamath Falls.
Picketers, including Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, stood in solidarity with the Fred Meyer employees who want better pay, healthcare and safety.
“These workers are fighting for a better life. Do not cross their line,” said union leader Miles Eshaia. “They had your back in the pandemic. Please have theirs.”
Representatives with Fred Meyer called the strike “reckless” and urged their employees to consider the implications. Fred Meyer officials said they’re offering associates raises ranging from $0.55 cent to $3.70 over the course of the 3 year contract.
• Head Clerks/Journeyperson – would receive wage increases of $.55 at ratification and year two and three of the agreement for a total of $1.65 per hour
• One-time signing bonus for non-CCK Journeypersons ◦ $4,000 Ratification bonus for those with more than 15 years of service ◦ $1,500 Ratification bonus for those with less than 15 years of service
• CCK cashiers – would align with grocery wage scales for increases of up to $3.70 over the life of the agreement.
• Apprentice Wage Progressions – would receive up to $2.75 per hour at ratification plus additional increases through the life of the contract.
“We feel like this latest offer is very competitive for this market. In fact, it’s about $36 million for about 5,000 employees,” said Fred Meyer-WFC spokesperson Tiffany Sanders.
The union said the vote to authorize this strike was overwhelmingly approved by workers who have been trying to negotiate with the Kroger affiliates.
Fred Meyer and QFC said they are keeping stores open, so customers have access to fresh food and other essentials.
“Our goal is to achieve a fair and balanced outcome for our associates, and we will continue to negotiate for as long as it takes to do so,” officials with Fred Meyer told KOIN 6 News. “We will do everything we can within the scope of the law to ensure that we are able to continue to provide access to food and essential items.”
The company is also being accused of illegally hiring replacement workers to fill the need during this time.
“After nearly two years of breaking labor law to continue paying their employees less, Fred Meyer has upped the ante by systematically ignoring the law and trampling on employee rights,” said Dan Clay, President of UFCW Local 555. “It’s absurd, and abhorrent.”
Labor union leaders said they are negotiating for better healthcare, worker safety and wages.
In a statement the union said hazard pay was cut nearly a year-and-a-half ago, despite employees continuing to work through a pandemic.
“Fred Meyer’s callous disregard for their own essential workers is stunning considering the sacrifice these employees have made throughout the pandemic,” said Sandy Humphrey, Secretary-Treasurer of UFCW Local 555. “While so many were able to stay safely in their own homes, essential grocery workers showed up to work helping feed our communities.”
The pay increase is being directed toward long-term employees with the company offering a 50 cent raise for the next two years and a 40 cent raise for the third year, while the union said the majority of employees have not been offered any raise.
According to Fred Meyer and QFC, they proposed adding $36 million toward wages, $30 million for health care benefits annually and $5 million toward a retirement pension for nearly 5,000 employees.
“Our offer respects our associates by significantly investing in their compensation. This includes a $36 million investment in pay raises, health care coverage and a stable retirement – while keeping groceries affordable,” said Dennis Gibson, president of Fred Meyer.
Portland Democratic Socialists of America announced they are planning to support the strike through scheduled mass pickets at various Fred Meyer locations over the coming week.