Fred Meyer Target of Holiday Strike

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Fred Meyer workers with the UFCW555 Union strike at the Tualatin Fred Meyers on Friday, Dec. 17.
Fred Meyer workers with the UFCW555 Union strike at the Tualatin Fred Meyers on Friday, Dec. 17. PHOTO/CINDY DYSON

UPDATED STORY:

A Settlement with Fred Meyer and QFC has been Reached

With overwhelming support from the community, your UFCW Local 555 Retail Negotiating Committee and the representatives Fred Meyer & QFC have reached a Fully Recommended Comprehensive Tentative Agreement for Local 555 members working under the Grocery, Meat, CCK, and Non-Food contracts in Oregon and SW Washington.

As a result of the Tentative Agreement, UFCW Local 555 is calling off the strike for Fred Meyer and QFC that was scheduled to run through Christmas Eve.

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 healthcare.

Details of the Tentative Agreement will be made public after members have had a chance to review the agreement and vote on it. Dates and times for ratification meetings will be forthcoming.


Original Story:

As many as 6,800 employees at 35 Fred Meyer stores, mostly across the Portland metro area, including the Tigard and Tualatin stores, are on strike and will be until early Christmas Eve, 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 24 to be exact.

“This is a very interesting time for them to choose to disrupt the lives of our associates and customers,” said Tiffany Sanders, spokeswoman for Fred Meyer, which is determined to keep all stores fully open. “Nobody wins during a strike. We’re heartbroken for our associates and their families. This is not the course of action we desired.”

Fred Meyer Tualatin employees take applications for store vacancies. PHOTO/CINDY DYSON
Fred Meyer Tualatin employees take applications for store vacancies. PHOTO/CINDY DYSON

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, which represents Fred Meyer employees, says the store and its parent company Kroger are neglecting worker safety and refusing to provide documentation necessary for their contract bargaining that began last July and largely stalled by August.

“We’re at greater risk,” said Daryl Gould, who has worked for Fred Meyer for 13 years. “I’ve got family at home who are asthmatic and I’ve gotta take these risks home with me.”

Picketing the Tualatin Fred Meyer, Gould stood with about ten other employees on Martinazzi Ave. Friday morning in a light drizzle. Striking employees spoke about feeling used and unsupported as essential workers during what feels like an unending pandemic. They noted that management does not enforce mask mandates for customers, doesn’t clean the store hourly despite announcing to customers via the intercom that they do.

“I like my job. I like my boss. I like my customers,” said Nicole, a 10-year-veteran of Fred Meyer, who did not want to give her full name. “But I don’t have the luxury of staying home during the pandemic, and I don’t feel safe at work.”

The strike was called on the basis of unfair labor practices and now includes complaints of direct dealings, or the company providing information to employees that has not been given to the union’s bargaining agents, said UFCW 555 spokesman Miles Eshaia.

Not all Fred Meyer employees are on strike. An estimated 5,300 employees showed up for work today, according to Sanders. Employees who work in home goods are still on the job as their labor contracts have not expired. Pharmacy workers are also still at work as they are not represented by the union. Even some of the employees eligible to strike have chosen to work instead, according to Sanders. “At one store, the entire produce department chose to keep working.”

Fred Meyer stores are determined to keep their doors open and provide customers with fresh food and last-minute shopping. They have been quick to react, calling up employees from as far away as Seattle, to beef up their in-store employee recruitment stations. According to one recruiter at the Tualatin Fred Meyer, who said she was not allowed to give her name, some recruiters have suffered abuse such as people throwing papers at them.

Fred Meyer employee strikes at the Tualatin Fred Meyer on Friday, Dec. 17.
Fred Meyer employee strikes at the Tualatin Fred Meyer on Friday, Dec. 17. PHOTO/CINDY DYSON

It could get worse if Teamsters, unionized truck drivers who deliver for Fred Meyer, join in solidarity. Eshaia said drivers will not cross the strike line. “They’ll pull their trucks onto the public road, call the manager and toss them the keys. “Know who doesn’t know how to park and backup a semi? A store manager.”

The union hopes the timing of the strike, during perhaps the busiest shopping week of the year, will give them more leverage in bargaining. Just the looming threat of a strike, brought Kroger back to the bargaining table earlier this week, although progress has not been satisfactory to the union.

“It’s certainly convenient,” Eshaia said of the timing.

The timing is not lost on Fred Meyer, which quickly increased its contract offer as news of the strike hit. They added $36 million in wages, averaging an additional $3.72 an hour, and beefed up its pension fund offering, according to Sanders.  But Sanders said the union seemed intent on striking. “They didn’t even want to take the proposal, and we had to put it in their hands as they were going out the door.”

Striking workers, who will be receiving an undisclosed strike pay from the union, were handing out leaflets with QR codes to a webpage suggesting shoppers shun Fred Meyer in favor of one of the following unionized, non-striking grocery stores: Albertsons, Safeway, Nap’s Thriftway and Food Front Northwest.

“The public needs to respect our line,” Eshaia said. “We’ve had their backs during the pandemic. They need to have ours now.”

The union is quick to note that Fred Meyer has had record sales during the pandemic. The store is quick to point out that it has also had record expenses as it invested in ways to minimize employee exposure to Covid. Sanders noted that the issue of confronting customers without masks has been a challenge. The store trains designated employees with a three-step process. First, offer a free mask to customers who enter maskless. Second, if the custom refuses, they are told about curbside pickup options. Third, if the customer still refuses to wear a mask, they are encouraged to finish their shopping quickly and leave.

Shoppers at the Tualatin Fred Meyer came and went in a blizzard of activity Friday morning despite the strike, although one anonymous shopper saw the picket line, and opted to forego Fred Meyer in favor of purchasing two large take out coffee boxes for the striking workers instead.

“It’s business as usual other than the stuff going on outside,” Sanders said. “We know how important it is to keep the food chains open. We’ve had enough disruption over the past year and a half. We’re all tired. We’re all needing to get back to normal.”