UPDATE 9:39 PM: Word of a contract agreement came to employees at one of the two Broadway QFCs on Capitol Hill by way of text message:
“UFCW 21: Fnly rec. tentative agreement reached. Continue vote, meetings will be announced”
“This is huge for us,” one employee told CHS. “It came to the point that at seven o’clock, if no union representative came in to talk to us, we would have walked.”
UPDATE 5:58 PM: Union representatives say they have a tentative agreement in hand and that there will not be a strike. Details will be made public following membership votes.
Original report: Big chain grocery stores in Seattle and throughout the Salish Sea region are braced for the first worker strike since 1989.
Unions for around 21,000 grocery workers at QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, and Albertsons chain stores have set a Monday, 7 PM deadline for negotiations to settle on a new contract. In 2010, the groups pounded out a deal without a strike.
The 2013 dispute has been brewing since this summer when CHS covered a series of pickets at area stores to bring attention to the growing labor unrest. In the meantime, signs have been posted at the Hill’s markets advertising part-time jobs in recent weeks as management prepares to try to find workers to cross picket lines in the event the unions walk out.
Union representatives have said battles over lack of wage growth, holiday pay and requirements for part-time workers to transition to the new federal health care programs are at the center of the contract standoff.
The Capitol Hill area’s changing retail grocery environment is also indicative of challenges faced by the industry. Smaller, independent efforts like Stockbox are shaking up traditional brick and mortar grocery models and boutique shops like Cone and Steiner plan to also plan to provide essentials while skimming the proverbial cream off the upscale, premium grocery market. Seattle has also seen locally-based online retail giant Amazon pioneer its grocery delivery business in the city. Meanwhile, many families make bulk shopping at outlets like Costco part of their home-stocking plan.
In addition to the new players above, the Capitol Hill area also has a handful of alternative grocery shopping choices. The standwithourcheckers.com site has posted a map of the region’s markets — including E Madison’s Central Co-op — that won’t face a strike if and when workers walk out:
View Alternative stores in Western WA in a full screen map.