By Meghan Glova
Central Oregon Daily
Grocery store workers across the state say they are being underpaid.
And the union that represents them in Oregon have authorized a strike in response to a year-long wage negotiation.
Local employees would prefer not to go on strike, but they may be left with no choice.
Jeff Bickler has been a grocery clerk at Fred Meyer in Bend for five years.
He is also a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Bargaining Team and has been fighting for higher wages for over a year.
“Most everybody in the store is part-time, and how do you make a living on a wage that isn’t livable?” Bickler said.
Bickler says the contracts of Local 555 employees have been expired for about a year. And negotiations for higher wages and better health and welfare have yet to come to a close.
On Saturday UFCW Local 555 members voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike.
Locally, it would impact workers at Fred Meyer, Albertsons, and Safeway.
“Nobody wants a strike, but everybody feels like we have to,” Bickler said.
Although the vote does not mark the start of a strike, it does allow the Local 555 bargaining team to call for a strike if necessary.
Bickler says as of now. whether or not a strike happens is all in the hands of negotiators.
“Hopefully everybody comes out with a win. It’s going to be tough,” he said. “They’re talking quarters, we’re talking dollars, and we can’t live off quarters.”
Jeffery Temple, Director of Corporate Affairs at Fred Meyer, says a strike wouldn’t help anyone.
“We’re working diligently to try and avoid a strike, and I know that the Union doesn’t want to have one as well,” Temple said. “And I know our associates don’t benefit when they are without work for a period of a strike.”
The ongoing negotiations represent about 25,000 employees across Oregon and Southern Washington, making this compromise nothing short of complex.
The next negotiation session between the Unity Bargaining Team and the employers’ negotiators will take place on Thursday.