Seattle Grocery Workers Reject Contract Proposal, Lobby Community

SEATTLE - The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1105, which represents 17,000 grocery workers in the Seattle area, has rejected the latest proposal of Albertsons, Safeway, and Kroger, which owns QFC and Fred Meyer, and is lobbying the community to back the employees, according to the Seattle Times.

Union members are urging customers to sign pledges not to shop at the stores involved in the contract dispute if the companies won't provide affordable health care coverage to workers. According to the UFCW, the supermarkets' proposal will increase rates so much that workers will have to drop their medical insurance and depend on state coverage. The grocers' argument is that they must reduce benefits to stay competitive, but that their latest proposal still provides employees adequate health care coverage.

Under the present contract, which was ratified three years ago, the companies pay 100 percent of workers' medical insurance premiums. But over the past three years, the supermarkets maintain that health-care costs have gone up 73 percent, so they believe that their employees must start sharing the cost.

The union and negotiators for the grocers are set to meet again June 24 and 25. The current contract, extended twice since talks began in April, is due to expire June 25.
Talks ending June 25 could lead to yet another extension of the current contract until the next talks, which are scheduled for July 6 and 7. Employees could choose to strike.

How this contract dispute is settled could affect negotiations for 10,000 to 15,000 other grocery workers in western Washington whose contracts expire later this year, grocers' spokeswoman Melinda Merrill said.
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