Workers at Fred Meyer and QFC locations have called off their strike after a day of picketing, according to their workers union, after reaching a tentative agreement with parent company Kroger. In a statement, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 announced that the tentative agreement includes “significant wage increases, added workplace protections, a secure retirement, and quality healthcare.”
At 6 a.m. December 17, Fred Meyer and QFC workers around the greater Portland area went on on strike, in the midst of contract negotiations between Kroger and Local 555, the union that represents workers at Fred Meyer and QFC locations in Oregon and Southwestern Washington. The union was seeking substantial wage increases for its workers, who hadn’t received hazard pay for almost a year and a half, according to the union. The strike was intended to last until midnight on December 24, but a statement released late on Friday announced the end of the strike and the newly reached tentative agreement.
The unfair labor practices strike, however, was instigated by conflicts during the negotiation process; the union said Kroger representatives “violated their legal duties to negotiate in good faith.” According to the union, Fred Meyer refused to provide the union with information it needs to negotiate and process grievances; in particular, the union says the company was withholding information related to compensation, which the union needed to investigate a potential violation of their contract. According to Local 555 spokesperson Miles Eshaia, the union believed nutrition and combination checkout clerks were not being paid adequately under their current contract; when they asked for information related to their wages, the company did not comply with their request. In response, a Fred Meyer spokesperson told the Portland Mercury that the company is negotiating in good faith, and will “continue to be compliant with all labor practice laws and legal requirements.”
Earlier this week, the union claimed Fred Meyer and QFC were violating state law in their recruitment of replacement workers by not telling them about the impending strike. According to ORS 662.215, employers cannot hire professional strikebreakers to replace striking employees, and cannot hire temporary employees to fill in during a work stoppage without disclosing the strike. Fred Meyer job listings posted on LinkedIn this week did not note the strike; the same is true for jobs posted on Recruit.Net.
“Fred Meyer should not break the law by tricking a worker into hurting another worker,” said Dan Clay, President of UFCW Local 555, in a press release. “While it may be standard operating procedure for these companies to try to break a strike, they ought to be open and honest with their attempts to harm workers fighting for a better life.”
From Fred Meyer’s perspective, the hiring of employees during the strike was necessary, so the business could continue to function as an essential business. “At Fred Meyer and QFC, we take our responsibility to maintain access to food and essential items for the communities that we serve very seriously. Our goal is to achieve a fair and balanced outcome for our associates, and we will continue to negotiate for as long as it takes to do so,” a Fred Meyer spokesperson told Eater in a written statement. “Since the union has decided to threaten a work stoppage in the middle of the negotiation process, and during an ongoing pandemic, we will do everything we can within the scope of the law to ensure that we are able to continue to provide access to food and essential items.”
According to a Portland Fred Meyer employee who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of professional retaliation, many of the physical job postings in Fred Meyer locations did, in fact, acknowledge the strike — in a photo submitted to Eater Portland, a job posting at Fred Meyer read, “Now hiring temporary associates... willing to cross a picket line.”
It’s not the first time Fred Meyer workers had authorized a strike this year: Fred Meyer warehouse workers, represented by Teamsters Local 117, almost instigated a work disruption that would have impacted 180 grocery stores around the Northwest back in July. Fred Meyer reached an agreement with Fred Meyer before going on strike, however.
The details of the contract are still under wraps; the union says it will release more information about the agreement once members have the opportunity to review and vote to ratify. Information about when the voting will finish have yet to be released, as well. Local 555 represents 29,000 workers in Oregon, Southwestern Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming, including employees of grocery stores like Albertsons and Safeway.
• UFCW 555 [Official]
• Fred Meyer, QFC Workers Are Prepared to Strike Friday [Merc]
Updated Thursday, December 16, at 9:25 a.m.: This story has been updated to include a statement from a Fred Meyer spokesperson, as well as information about job postings at Fred Meyer locations in Portland.
Updated Friday, December 17, at 2:19 p.m.: This story has been updated to show that the strike has officially begun.
Updated Saturday, December 18, at 11:16 a.m.: This story has been updated to show that the union has reached a tentative agreement with Kroger.