Puget Sound-area grocery workers set Monday strike deadline

SEATTLE — About 21,000 Puget Sound-area grocery workers could walk off the job Monday evening at four grocery chains if no contract agreement is reached, a union spokesman said Friday night.

United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Tom Geiger said 72-hour strike notice was given Friday night to QFC, Safeway, Albertsons and Fred Meyer stores. The union erected a giant strike countdown “clock” at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle.

Union members in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston and Mason counties have rejected current proposals and voted to authorize a strike, Geiger has said.

Negotiations continue, Geiger told a Friday night news conference.

Unresolved issues include wages, holiday pay and “even cuts to (workers) cherished health care plans,” the spokesman said, adding the two sides have been in talks for more than six months.

“We have every hope the employers will come to their senses” and offer more acceptable proposals,” Geiger said.

Allied Employers Vice President Scott Powers is the employers’ lead negotiator.

Noting the 72-hour strike notice, Powers said in a statement, “This does not change the fact that the only way to work through the remaining issues is at the bargaining table.

“These companies remain focused and committed to reach an agreement that is good for our associates, providing them a solid compensation package of pay and benefits; and good for the companies too, so they can be competitive and continue to provide good, stable jobs,” he added.

The last area grocery strike was in 1989 and lasted nearly three months.

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