Starting next week — and only days before the celebration of grocery gluttony that is Team USA Thanksgiving — Capitol Hill and the other dense city neighborhoods of Seattle accustomed to being able to walk to their nearest QFC or Safeway could be in for an interesting urban dilemma. What do you do when the employees at the big grocery chain down the street go on strike? Nothing is final, but union members from UFCW 21, UFCW 81, and Teamsters 38 have authorized a strike as contract talks with the regions largest chains including Safeway and Kroger’s QFC continue. It would be the Seattle area’s first grocery workers strike since 1989.
From the UFCW21 Web site:
Grocery Store Workers Vote Results: 94% Reject Employers’ Proposal and Authorize a Strike
After 9 Months of Negotiations, Big Chains Still Proposing Cuts to Pay & Benefits
Puget Sound, WA – Grocery store workers at the big chain stores in central Puget Sound gathered for vote meetings throughout Snohomish, King and Kitsap Counties over the past several days to consider a vote to reject the employers’ proposal and take a strike authorization vote. The last of these meetings took place on Wednesday evening in Bellevue. After the meeting all the ballots were counted.
The vote result: 94% Vote to Reject Employers’ Proposal and Authorize a Strike
Difficult negotiations between workers and these big chains have been dragging on since they began nine months ago in mid-March. The out-of-state-based corporations include California-based Safeway, Albertsons (owned by Minnesota-based Supervalu), and QFC and Fred Meyer (both owned by Cincinnati-based food giant Kroger).
The contract ends on November 15th, according to the union site. A strike could follow days later.
Having experienced life in a striking family in the 1980s, I can state the obvious and say it’s a stressful time for workers right now and especially workers’ families. There’s not a lot of ways to explain to a kid why you’re not going to work and why you can’t buy certain things for awhile.
The dilemma for the labor-sensitive on the Hill likely won’t be whether to cross picket lines to stand in the self-checkout U-Scan lines but a much more base matter of survival. How to acquire food without eating out every night when you’ve based your day to day existence on being able to walk to the nearest grocery store?
Nobody is going to starve. There’s a large selection of non (grocery, at least)-union competitors in the area including Trader Joe’s, Madison Market and, yup, even Grocery Outlet down on MLK. There’s also Whole Foods down Denny. If you don’t have experience getting your groceries home via bus, you might want to start lifting weights now. Others will turn to the Internet as Amazon Fresh is already busy every morning on Capitol Hill dropping off yellow, green and blue bins. So, again, no starvation. Any ’89 veterans left to tell the tales?
In all, it’s a #firstworldproblems situation. But it will be interesting to watch play out if it happens. For the workers — and their families — it’s much more serious.