Grocery store union workers picket outside of a Bellevue QFC on July 31. They are in contract negotiations with Kroger for higher wages, predictable scheduling and better safety conditions. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Grocery store union workers picket outside of a Bellevue QFC on July 31. They are in contract negotiations with Kroger for higher wages, predictable scheduling and better safety conditions. Aaron Kunkler/staff photo

Grocery store workers picket across King County

Union members are asking Kroger for living wages and more scheduling predictability.

Union workers picketed outside several Kroger-owned grocery stores this week, asking for living wages, scheduling security and greater workplace safety.

Workers from QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway and Albertsons picketed at locations throughout King County and surrounding areas on July 31 and Aug. 1. The workers are represented by UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) and Teamsters unions. Contract negotiations between the unions and Kroger began this spring but stalled, said UFCW spokesperson Tom Geiger. One of the central asks from the union is increased wages.

“It’s a tough time for grocery store workers,” Geiger said. “While there have been some very major wage increases over the years, a lot of the money we’ve been able to negotiate has been going to shore up our pension since the 2008 Great Recession.”

Many workers’ starting pay is $12.10, 10 cents more than the statewide minimum wage. The union is asking for a $1.50 raise every year for three years while Kroger is offering 25 cent annual raises over the same period of time.

While workers at the bottom of the pay scale have seen raises in recent years due to increases in the state’s minimum wage, workers at the top haven’t seen significant raises in nearly a decade, Geiger said. In order to get to the top of the pay scale, or about $20 an hour, workers usually have to work about 7,000 hours.

The unions also are asking for predictability in scheduling, increased safety training and affordable health care. Geiger said a picket is an escalation in tactics, and if an agreement isn’t reached, union members could vote on a strike resolution in coming months. The union represents some 30,000 workers and pickets were scheduled for 32 locations around King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Jeffery Temple, corporate spokesperson for Fred Meyer, said in an email the company’s goal is to reach an agreement that “is good for our associates and good for our stores, too.”

“The most productive thing the union can do is to work with the company in a manner that positively addresses those concerns,” Temple said.

QFC and Fred Meyer offer health care and a pension benefit upon retirement, Temple said.

Ben Hartman is the dairy manager at the Northtown QFC in Bellevue and was at the picket outside of the Bel-East QFC along 145th Place Southeast on July 31. He said low wages for the area forces many of his coworkers to live far from where they work, some driving as far away as Kent. The high cost of living in the area means that many workers must also pick up second jobs.

Under-staffing leads many of his coworkers to do double or triple duties, often working in roles they’re not technically assigned to. Safety is an issue too, with Hartman saying he was hired into his position before Christmas with little to no safety training.

“We are not getting compensated for the amount of labor we do,” he said.

The next round of negotiations begins on Aug. 12, and Geiger said strikes could come if a deal is not reached.

“It’s really the employer’s choice at this point,” he said.

Grocery store union workers picket outside of a Renton Fred Meyers on July 31. They are in contract negotiations with Kroger for higher wages, predictable scheduling and better safety conditions. Haley Ausbun/staff photo

Grocery store union workers picket outside of a Renton Fred Meyers on July 31. They are in contract negotiations with Kroger for higher wages, predictable scheduling and better safety conditions. Haley Ausbun/staff photo

More in News

If passed, Senate Bill 6254 would limit the nicotine concentration of vape products, ban certain flavoring chemicals and require vape manufacturers, distributors and retailers to obtain licenses from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. File photo
Lawmakers propose sweeping regulations for vaping industry

Bill supporters cite concerns over health issues and teen use.

Photo by Haley Ausbun. A cloudy day at Renton Municipal Airport.
Seaplane pilots, businesses say no to FAA plans

Local businesses and pilots ask Renton to reconsider airport master plan

A proposal by Senate Democrats would require concealed pistol license applicants in Washington state to complete a safety course. File photo
Democrats seek firearm training requirement for concealed carriers

Republican senator calls proposal ‘unconstitutional.’

Snohomish County man is first U.S. case of new coronavirus

A man in his 30s was hospitalized in Everett after contracting the virus during a trip to China.

Photo courtesy of city of Renton. Council President Ruth Pérez speaks at Centro Rendu de San Vicente de Paul for the Reyes Magos event.
Census campaign joins Reyes Magos celebration

Members of Renton’s Hispanic community gathered Jan. 10 at Centro Rendu de… Continue reading

Alexander, who attended the event with his family that are currently housed at Mary’s Place, shows off his new shoes, compared to the pair he’s had the last two years. The shoes were just one of the resources his family accessed at the United Way Family Resource Exchange on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 20 at Lindbergh High School.
MLK’s humanity reflected in resource fair

United Way host Family Resource Exchange event

Photo courtesy of Carol Kaelson. Christel Tucker, a Renton resident and flight attendant, stands at the wheel at Wheel of Fortune. Her episode airs Monday, Jan. 20.
Rentonite spins the wheel of her dreams

Local finds herself winning thousands on Wheel of Fortune

Matt Marshall, leader of the Washington Three Percenters gun rights group, addresses a crowd rallying for Second Amendment rights Jan. 17 at the state Capitol in Olympia. Marshall condemned Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, which expelled Rep. Matt Shea from the Republican Caucus. Marshall announced his candidacy for the 2nd District seat held by House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox. Photo by Cameron Sheppard, WNPA News Service
Gun rights advocates rally at Capitol

Criticism levied at Matt Shea investigation, Republican leadership.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (center) announced a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson in a press conference Jan. 2. Debbie Warfield of Everett (left) lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2012. Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki (right) lost her son to an overdose of OxyContin in 2017. They are joined by Rep. Lauren Davis of Shoreline (second from right), founder of the Washington Recovery Alliance. (TVW screenshot)
AG Bob Ferguson talks lawsuits, gun control

Washington state Attorney General stopped by Sound Publishing’s Kirkland office.

Most Read