UFCW Local 555 and Kroger brokered a deal after a brief member strike just before the weekend.
For months, there was talk about grocery workers in Oregon going on strike, but the actual event was short lived. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555, representing workers at Fred Meyer and Quality Food Center banners owned by The Kroger Co. settled less than 24 hours after the walk-off.
Following several rounds of talks to hammer out a new contract, workers in the Portland area and parts of Southwest Washington officially went on strike at 6 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 17. Just before midnight on the same day, representatives from Kroger and UFCW Local 555 reached a tentative deal for the workers in grocery, meat, non-food and CCK cashier areas.
The agreement prevented a protracted strike, which was set to run through Christmas Eve during one of the busiest weeks of the retail year. While the deal has yet to be ratified, members said that they had come to terms on wage increases, workplace protections and benefits covering retirement and health care.
Following the agreement, the union released a statement, which read in part: “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.”
Before the labor stoppage, Fred Meyer released its own statement about the situation, pointing to its and QFC’s total investment for their approximately 5,000 associates covered under that contract, which includes $36 million in additional wages, $30 million in annual contributions for health care benefits and $5 million in pension investments.
Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery operators, noted in its annual report that the company has about 350 collective bargaining agreements in place that have been negotiated with various local unions. The company also made labor-related news this month after it announced that it would not cover up to two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated workers who are infected with COVID-19. That change goes into effect on Jan. 1.
Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.