A strike by Fred Meyer grocery workers over alleged unfair labor practices was short-lived this week — coming to an end after less than a day when union leaders and store representatives reached a tentative settlement late Friday night.
The strike was originally planned to run through Christmas Eve, with the potential of seriously disrupting the busy holiday shopping season — which no doubt helped spur the speedy resolution.
“We are pleased that Fred Meyer and QFC have recognized the ongoing hazard to its workers, with a settlement agreement that provides significant wage increases, added workplace protections, a secure retirement, and quality health care,” the announcement from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 read in part.
“We want to thank all of our community friends and allies for standing with essential workers at a critical time in their lives. This agreement, if ratified, will positively impact the amazing members of UFCW Local 555 and their families.”
The agreement must be reviewed and ratified by union members to become official. Dates and times for ratification meetings are available on the union’s website.
Fred Meyer, which is owned by Kroger — the largest supermarket and second-largest general retailer in the country (behind Walmart) — confirmed the agreement this week, saying its stores are and will remain open, staffed and stocked.
“We are so grateful to our Fred Meyer and QFC associates for everything they do for our customers and our community,” Fred Meyer President Dennis Gibson said in the statement. “That’s why we’ve invested in their wages, healthcare, and retirement.
“We will continue to do everything we can to balance investments in wages and overall well-being while keeping food affordable for our customers. We remain committed to our people and our Oregon community.”
As part of the agreement, Fred Meyer will invest an additional $36 million in pay increases, $30 million in annual contributions for health care benefits and $5 million in pensions for the more than 5,000 workers covered by the new contract.
The strike involved grocery workers at stores in Canby, Portland, Newberg and Klamath Falls. Around 20 workers demonstrated outside the Canby store Friday morning along Highway 99E and Sequoia Parkway, holding signs decrying alleged unfair labor practices by Fred Meyer and QFC.
The demonstrators were friendly, cheering when they received a supportive honk from passing motorists, but referred questions to union officials.
In a statement at the start of the strike Friday morning, UFCW 555 leaders criticized Fred Meyer for ending its hazard pay increase — which the company dubbed the “hero bonus” — less than two months into the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the time since then, workers have continued to deal with the pandemic, while the company has enjoyed record profits,” the union statement read. “The hazard never ended.”
At the time, bargaining officials representing Fred Meyer were offering long-term employees a 50-cent increase — but no raises for the vast majority of employees, according to the union.
“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,” UFCW 555 President Dan Clay said. “It’s absurd and abhorrent.”
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