Grocery-store workers vote to authorize potential strike

September 26, 2013 at 11:16 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle people | 39 Comments

They are not saying they’re definitely striking, yet – but members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 have voted to authorize a strike against several chains, including Safeway and QFC, which have 5 stores in West Seattle – union leadership announced this morning. They say contract talks have been under way since March, and they are still concerned about company proposals such as no health-care coverage for those who work less than 30 hours a week. The union says if a strike is called, there would be at least 72 hours’ notice.

39 Comments

  1. Another reason we need Whole Foods in West Seattle to be approved – a grocery store to go to while the others are on strike…

    Comment by the mighty mouse — 11:21 am September 26, 2013 #

  2. We are lucky to have lots of other shopping options in West Seattle. Met Market, Thriftway, Trader Joes, PCC and the produce stands!!

    Comment by ACG — 11:25 am September 26, 2013 #

  3. If the concern is about lack of healthcare for those who work 30 hours or less, shouldn’t they be picketing the office of Jim McDermott, Patty Murray or Maria Cantwell since they are the ones that forced that result?

    Comment by AndrewsDad — 11:31 am September 26, 2013 #

  4. Just to be clear, TMM, while those are not the only union grocery stores in WS, they are the only ones involved in these negotiations – the not-locally-owned chains. The locally owned stores that are union (Thriftway, Metropolitan Market, PCC, disclosure/all WSB sponsors) have separate contracts, I believe. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 11:39 am September 26, 2013 #

  5. The big box store union setup is pretty shady. The ones that always get hosed are the ones 18 and under working there. They are limited by law as to how many hours they are allowed to work during the school year, yet pay the same % in union dues. However, since they don’t work enough hours, they don’t get all the benefits their older counterparts get. THAT’s what should be the issue. Why are kids paying for benefits of their elder co-workers and union heads salary?
    .
    Does Starbucks still provide full health benefits to workers who put in 20 or more hours a week? They could quit and work for SBUX. Just a thought.

    Comment by Mike — 11:56 am September 26, 2013 #

  6. Actually, no one “forced the result” – the owners of the grocery chains want to make as much money as possible, and so they are choosing of their own free will not to offer health insurance and/or to drop workers below 30 hours per week. There’s no law that “forces” them to do that, and they certainly won’t go out of business if they do.

    Comment by socamr — 11:59 am September 26, 2013 #

  7. There are plenty of union options if a strike were to occur. Customers would be directed to other union stores not negotiating currently (Thriftway, MetMkt and PCC) and the farmer’s market and West Seattle Produce are also great options.

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 12:20 pm September 26, 2013 #

  8. Thriftway is actually part of the same union.

    Comment by JimClark — 12:36 pm September 26, 2013 #

  9. Same union but not same contract.

    Comment by WSB — 12:39 pm September 26, 2013 #

  10. This may be a “dumb” question, but is there anything out there that bullet points and/or explains Obamacare in simple terms? Every time it gets brought up in conversation no one will talk any further about it because no one knows enough about it to like or dislike it. That in itself is scary.

    Comment by bsmomma — 12:48 pm September 26, 2013 #

  11. Guess I’ll swing by WalMart on the way home from my mom’s tonight to stock up! Staples are so much cheaper anyway.

    Comment by trickycoolj — 1:16 pm September 26, 2013 #

  12. @bsmomma This is about as simple as it can get. It’s a very complicated law, for sure.

    http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/facts/timeline/timeline-text.html

    If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to answer them. I work in insurance and it’s my job to understand this law.

    Comment by Lindsey — 2:59 pm September 26, 2013 #

  13. Thanks, Lindsey, my attempt to go find that King County page (healthplanfinder something) has been interrupted by breaking news.

    Comment by WSB — 3:07 pm September 26, 2013 #

  14. Anyone who is for the wage increase, I hope you like to pay higher prices. And that’s not counting the margin of normal inflation soon to be hyper-inflation. Obummercare factors in cost too..No one will be able to afford to go out anymore. Who is able to go out today anyways?

    Comment by alki forever — 3:17 pm September 26, 2013 #

  15. TR; there’s been lots of news this past week about a NOT-the-real-Obamacare-website set up that people mistakenly will think is the real site because it’s been set up to look the same, under the similar name you listed above; the real site starts with WA http://www.wahealthplanfinder.org

    Comment by Diane — 4:12 pm September 26, 2013 #

  16. SWEET!!!!
    I get to cross union picket lines!!
    LOVE doing that.
    Like someone said above; the choice to not offer HC to those who work under 30 per week is due to the ACA.
    Socamr,
    People go into business to MAKE money. The ACA just made it easier for them to cut hours and hire more part time workers. If anyone was to do a minute amount of research into the jobs created for the last 2 years you will see that 75% of the jobs are PART-TIME.
    Why hire one person for a 40 job and HAVE to pay for their healthcare, when you can hire two people at 20 hours per week and not have to pay for their healthcare?
    WOW Lindsey!!!!
    You have read and understand the 20,000+ page law known as the ACA???
    Not to be snarky, but maybe you should go to DC and apply for the head of the Dept of ACA.
    Experts in the Healthcare field have been pouring over it for the last 3 years and not even they have a full understanding of the ACA. Remember the FAMOUS line”: “We need to pass it, to know what’s in it.” Well they passed it over two years ago and they STILL haven’t figured out what’s in it. Maybe you could educate them?
    The ACA is ANYTHING but affordable. My premiums for a family of four just went up from $175 a month to OVER $700.00 a month with increased co-pays, drug costs and god forbid if anyone needs a hospital stay.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 4:14 pm September 26, 2013 #

  17. Not only that, but I’ll gladly cross the Union lines and get a part time job for extra money that I will have to use to pay for the increase in HC costs due to the ACA.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 4:18 pm September 26, 2013 #

  18. I also think the new very complicated “affordable” health care is a disaster already, more to come; so many stories of companies dumping pt workers’ health care, and cutting hours so they don’t have to provide health care; and personal stories of rates going up, for lesser plans; when the first list of providers was announced weeks ago, I looked it up; my baby boomer age group, for me as a healthy non-smoking woman, the costs were $500 – $800/month, for just me, not a family of 4; there is no way I could ever afford that; and for those of us who cannot afford, but don’t qualify for the new Medicaid, we have to pay a fine; so far I haven’t heard much that I like about the new plan that we’re all being forced to participate in, whether we can afford it or not; the only people I’ve heard raving about the new plan are employed in high paying jobs, where their companies pay it all or most; is there anyone else actually seeing a benefit from this plan?

    Comment by Diane — 4:35 pm September 26, 2013 #

  19. Diane – the only people I’ve heard raving about the new plan are employed in high paying jobs, where their companies pay it all or most; is there anyone else actually seeing a benefit from this plan?
    YES there are:
    ILLEGAL ALIENS and those that can, but won’t work.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 5:25 pm September 26, 2013 #

  20. I find this a depressing thread – the people working at these stores are, in many cases, our neighbors, and they are willing to work. I know I would be willing to pay a little more to ensure that my neighbor had decent health insurance if something were to happen to them – it’s a much more sensible system than having to run bake sales and the like when something happens (and we know that happens just from the invitations to contribute that get posted to the Blog).

    Most of us are taught at an early age that we have some responsibility for the people around us, that we are in fact our brother’s keeper. West Seattle has always seemed a community that recognized this fact – perhaps I should be grateful that Ex-Westwood Resident is now an “Ex-resident”.

    Comment by socamr — 5:50 pm September 26, 2013 #

  21. socamr;
    Ex- Westwood is spot on, Some People are also taught PERSONAL RESPONSABILITY. Every vote has its
    Consequences.

    Comment by WSPS — 6:51 pm September 26, 2013 #

  22. socamr we are all grateful that he is an ex-resident. If we ever actually tried anything remotely close to liberalism in this country we would have had a single-payer health care system just like every other civilized country in the world. The ACA is good in that it gets more people coverage but is really, like most things Obama has done, a huge corporate giveaway.

    Comment by Dave — 7:06 pm September 26, 2013 #

  23. I think socamr has a gentle kind view point to make.
    Ex-Westwood: you do sound snarky and I believe proud of it. I don’t want to assume that these people wanting healthcare benefits are lacking personal responsibility. However, there are many I’ve heard of on Wall Street seem to be lacking in that sense and got a heavy sense of entitlement at the expense of those less fortunate. I don’t think the ACA is the ideal solution but hopefully it’s a start to a better one. For the record, I don’t eat out, have a tv, and work full-time.

    Comment by Resident — 8:14 pm September 26, 2013 #

  24. Ex Westwood resident: Two others that are happy about the Affordable Care Act are my 35 yr old niece just diagnosed with cancer and another relative with Addisons disease. My niece works two parttime low wage jobs totaling 40hrs a week, neither which offers heath insurance. She had emergency surgery but needs additional surgery and chemo. The other relative has worked his entire life but because of this preexisting condition can not get healthcare. Neither are illegal aliens and both have always worked.

    Comment by srjsac — 8:35 pm September 26, 2013 #

  25. It is a choice on the part of management to drop healthcare coverage for workers currently receiveing it. But it clearly will result in reduced personnel costs. Another complaint from the union is having their wages held flat( I heard it’s for three years on a radio discussion with a union rep but haven’t found that in writing anywhere). Reducing holiday pay will also achieve lower personnel costs for the companies. It seems to me that with some worthy exceptions the general trend in business is a constant downward push on workers’ salaries and benefits in order to achieve better earnings reports, keep stock prices up, and reward management with generous bonuses. But I don’t expect it’s going to result in lower prices or deferred price increases in the stores. I think most people here are probably familiar with the discussions about income inequality in this country and the fact that even as the recovery from the recession slowly grinds along the inequality is getting worse. The union movement is all but extinguished in this country (not that organized labor didn’t help that along by becoming complacent and selfish). So there is not a lot of leverage workers have to earn a decent income these days. It appears a number of commenters on this thread are more keen on ragging about the ACA than addressing the deteriorating status of the American workforce. Sad.

    Comment by JTB — 9:31 pm September 26, 2013 #

  26. David B. Dillon-Kroger (locally QFC and Fred Meyer):
    http://people.equilar.com/bio/david-dillon-kroger/salary/658277

    .

    Robert L. Edwards–Safeway:
    http://people.equilar.com/bio/robert-edwards-safeway/salary/21840

    .

    Robert Miller–Albertsons:
    http://people.equilar.com/bio/robert-miller-supervalu/salary/713971

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 10:16 pm September 26, 2013 #

  27. Dave – You are correct, we don’t practice “liberalism” here is the US. But I think you have NO IDEA what the definition of it is. Here let me help you out:

    Classical liberalism is a philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets.

    What we have here, and have been sliding toward more and more with increasing velocity is SOCIALISM.
    Unions are about as socialist as you can get without being a Gov’t entity.
    The ACA is PURE socialism.
    The reason in the downfall of unions is their own fault. They have forgotten why they were established and care only for; how much power they can obtain, how much money they can soak out of their members, how much influence they can exert of the US. Need proof??? Look no further than the Hwy 99 tunnel. Over a month delay for the petty argument over 4 union jobs. The full impact of that delay won’t be known until later but there are estimates that it could add $MILLION$ to the project that are on the back of taxpayers because of that union squabble.
    JTB – BOO HOOOOO, I haven’t had a pay raise OR a ‘Cost of Living’ raise in OVER three years and in fact took a $12,000 pay cut because of Obama and his economic policies.
    YES the HC system needed to be overhauled but the ACA WASN’T and ISN’T the answer.

    Comment by Ex-Westwood Resident — 6:54 am September 27, 2013 #

  28. Ex-WR, I believe you are confused about what socialism actually involves. But more informative is your evident willingness to blame Obama and his policies (which, specfically?) for the recession and slow recovery. That seems akin to the recent findings that 30% of Louisiana Republicans blame him for the bungled Katrina recovery. In any case, it’s clear you have no sense of compassion for people who are trying to defend their wages and benefits since you seem happy to have had yours hammered. Sad.

    Comment by JTB — 8:11 am September 27, 2013 #

  29. Actually the ACA is not socialism – it’s based on providing a market-based solution to the problem of health insurance. The concept was developed by the Heritage Foundation – a decidedly non-socialist group – and insurance companies will still make puh-lenty of money.

    You know what would be closer to socialism: single-payer health care. Cut the insurance companies out of the loop entirely. And oh by the way, single-payer would bring health care costs down faster than anything else, and it is health care costs that are the main driver of the national debt. But rather than solving two problems at once, ExWR just wants to make things up so he (she?) can scream at Obama.

    Comment by socamr — 8:48 am September 27, 2013 #

  30. “Experts in the Healthcare field have been pouring over it for the last 3 years” — that’s me. That’s the people I work for, that’s what we do. So yeah, I do have a pretty damn good understanding of PPACA, as much as anyone does.

    I’m actually okay with the cost of my milk going up so that my fellow citizens can get better benefits and wages. And you know what else? I’ll happily sign up for health insurance as a healthy young person so that the pool of risk goes down for an aging baby boomer like yourself.

    “Why hire one person for a 40 job and HAVE to pay for their healthcare, when you can hire two people at 20 hours per week and not have to pay for their healthcare?”

    See now here’s where I know you haven’t done all your PPACA reading! A business can’t just hire 200 part time workers, because the penalties and mandates are based on full time and full-time equivalent workers. So they’d be penalized the same as a business with 100 full time workers. But you already knew that, right?!

    Also, illegal aliens can’t enroll in any exchange plan, so they are still stuck going to emergency care.

    I don’t know where you are getting your information, but most of what you’ve posted here is wrong.

    Comment by Lindsey — 10:05 am September 27, 2013 #

  31. socamr,

    So you want single payer like what Canada has? That “free” Canadian healthcare we all hear about? You do realize its not free because for it to be free, doctors and nurses would all have to be paid zero. The facts are Canadians pay for healthcare through taxes and a few years ago I ran the numbers and if I remember correctly about 30-40% of Canadian taxes go into providing the “free” healthcare. It turns out that the average Canadian pays substantially more than the average American for healthcare, its just hidden as taxes. Also please look at the B.C. health website and find the average wait times for specific procedures. Tonsil problem? In B.C. the average wait is 8.7 weeks for treatment. Kidney stone removal, average wait 3.7 weeks.

    Here is the reason, doctors and nurses work so they can get paid, its a profession, not a hobby. When government decides the price to pay, it does not pay the going rate and therefore fewer people decide to spend the time and effort to become doctors and nurses. So the consumer will have fewer options.

    In my opinion, the ACA is going to be a disaster, not because of costs, which will certainly increase, but because of the disincentives for smart people to become doctors. We are going to end up with fewer doctors of lesser quality. The rich will always be able to find and pay for a doctor one way or another. Its the person without the means that is going to suffer.

    Comment by AndrewsDad — 10:43 am September 27, 2013 #

  32. So nice of you to be concerned about the person without means, but why don’t you ask them what THEY think?

    Oh wait, we did that – it’s called an election.

    P.S. Only right wing talking points call single-payer ‘free.’ If your best argument is a straw man, you might as well stop now.

    Comment by socamr — 11:41 am September 27, 2013 #

  33. Its not the right wing who calls single payer and Canadian free… thats the left talking point. I hear it all the time about how you can go to the doctor in Canada and its all free.

    The problem with that model is its really “all you can eat” and all you can eat discourages cost savings. There is no longer a direct connection between the paying for the good and service and the using of the good and service. When you go to an all you can eat restaurant you want to make sure you get your moneys worth so it does not matter if you get 3 desserts and take 1 bite of each and throw the rest away.

    The problem today is health insurance is not really insurance but rather an alternative way of paying for healthcare. My car insurance does not pay for an oil change or a burned out light bulb. Its up to me to do the things to keep my car good working condition so I dont have to pay for a new engine or transmission down the road. If I choose not to do so, if I am irresponsible then it comes out of my pocket. Not with healthcare… everything is a $20 co pay. Do you know the actual cost of a doctor visit? Have you ever price shopped to know if your doctor charging a competitive price? Why not? Its because the cost is not coming directly out of your pocket so what do you care if the cost to see the doctor is $100 or $200 or $400, its just a $20 co pay to you.

    For the most efficient healthcare, we must encourage people to act in a way to keep them as healthy as possible and not encourage them to go for medical care when it not really needed. The way to do that is through financial incentives… and disincentives.

    The idea that having the person receiving the healthcare being disconnected from the cost, as is the case now and will be even more so with single payer, is just fundamentally flawed if the goal is the make healthcare as cost efficient as possible.

    Comment by AndrewsDad — 12:42 pm September 27, 2013 #

  34. The point of the stike issue is the Healthcare. The Big Three are trying to “get ahead” of the proposed ACA by ‘dumping’ employees that they currently cover. The last contract they managed to cut the health care they were providing and increased the cost to all employees. Currently if you work 20 hrs a week you can have coverage for you and your family, but you are also contributing more to it. Now they want it to be 30 hrs a week and an increased amount the employee are paying for coverage. Currently 78% of the work force for the top three Grocery chains do not work 30 hrs a week. And it’s not because the emplyees don’t want to work. Most employees are trying to provide for their families. There for, the rest of us will be paying for their healthcare with our taxes. The CEO’s will not be taking a pay cut, nor will they be passing any savings on to the consumer. I know people that have been in the industry for years, and the owners have cut as many people as possible to not even get 40 hours a week, even managers are about 35hrs. You used to be able to raise a family. Pay is not the main issue, as much as it is hours. I can pay you $15 an hour, but if I don’t give you even 25 hrs a week, how much do make a year? Oh, and I’m not telling you what your schedule is until I post it a week out (2 if you’re lucky), so don’t be making any plans.
    Also, just an FYI some of the union stores have what is called a Sweetheart contract. They can’t strike and they have to accept whatever the contract is negotiated. They don’t have a vote. Those would be the Thriftways, PCC, Met Market etc. The small independant stores. So you could shop there without crossing picket lines. I would really hope you wouldn’t cross the lines. They are fighting to feed their families, and save your tax dollar too.

    Comment by buriengal — 6:44 pm September 27, 2013 #

  35. Seems like you’re interested in a nanny state, Andrewsdad. Look what happened to Bloomberg when he tried to limit soda sizes in New York – the entire right wing was up in arms screaming about ‘freedom’.

    And your solution does not for people who, through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, have medical crises. Ever hear of cancer? or simply slipping on a piece of ice?

    Every country with single payer pays substantially less than we pay for health care on a per capita basis. You can not like it, you can argue that it makes no sense, but that’s what the data says. If people would get off their ideological hobby-horses, we might actually be able to develop fact-based solutions to our problems.

    Comment by socamr — 6:45 pm September 27, 2013 #

  36. SCABS suck! Please learn your history and who you have to thank for your 40 hour week jobs, breaks, lunches, child labor laws, and safe working conditions. I say “UNION YES”!!!

    Comment by DelridgeV — 7:05 pm September 27, 2013 #

  37. Seems to me the majority of the comments are people concerned for themselves.

    Comment by Mariah — 11:51 pm September 28, 2013 #

  38. FWIW, one of the most highly rated healthcare systems in the EU is in the Netherlands which features: single payor (government); private insurers (meeting set standards); and mandatory participation/payment (companies & insured). The rating is based on both cost and quality. Their single payor system cuts the administrative burden dramatically compared to having multiple insurance companies handle it.

    Comment by JTB — 9:31 am September 30, 2013 #

  39. Well said Buriengal. My crew of seven are all part time 20s. However they average 35 hrs-40s a week. If the stores get their way they will cut everyone down to 29 hours or less. Then they will hire additional people to cover those hours. Most of my crew wouldn’t be able to support their families.

    Comment by Mochamekrzy — 8:59 am October 10, 2013 #

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