Fred Meyer bargaining stalls over health care

UPDATE — Solidarity Actions on Saturday and Sunday! — On SATURDAY, Aug. 20 at 9 a.m., Fred Meyer Worker Solidarity Actions will be held at the Teamsters Building in Tukwila, 14675 Interurban Ave. S., AND at the Teamsters Building in Tacoma, 220 S. 27th St., AND at Teamsters Local 38 in Everett, 2601 Everett Ave.  On SUNDAY, Aug. 21 at 9 a.m., a Fred Meyer Worker Solidarity Action will be at the Teamsters Building in Tacoma, 220 S. 27th St. For more info, contact Brenda Wiest at 206-441-4860 ext. 1256

TUKWILA, WA (Aug. 16) — Contract talks between Teamster grocery warehouse workers and Fred Meyer broke off Monday when the company refused to address its employees’ concerns over the rising cost of health care.  An extension agreement between Teamsters Local 117 and Fred Meyer expired at midnight on Aug. 15.  The union has proposed that the parties engage the assistance of a federal mediator, but no further talks are currently scheduled.


Grocery warehouse workers and their allies will be raising awareness statewide about the growing disparity in the amount that employees at the Fred Meyer distribution center in Puyallup pay toward their medical coverage as compared with other workers in the industry.

“The general public needs to know that Fred Meyer is putting an undue burden of medical costs on the backs of its workers and their families,” said Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracey A. Thompson.  “When corporations like Kroger, the owner of Fred Meyer, make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit off the backs of their workers, those corporations have an obligation to ensure that those workers have the best family medical coverage available.”

During the term of the expired labor agreement, employees’ premium share, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums more than doubled.

Safeway, SuperValu, and Unified Grocers settled their contracts in early August, leaving Fred Meyer as the only Teamster grocery warehouse in the area that has not reached an agreement with the union.  Since bargaining got underway on June 8, the Teamsters union and Fred Meyer have met six times. On Aug. 6 and 7, Fred Meyer employees voted in overwhelming numbers to authorize a strike.  The contract at Fred Meyer’s distribution center in Puyallup covers 362 employees.  The facility serves approximately 140 stores in Washington, Alaska and Idaho, and more stores in the Western Region.

Workers in the grocery warehouse industry perform physically demanding work under a tight production standard.  They work in ambient, refrigerated and freezer warehouse environments, manually lifting and moving heavy cases and operating forklifts and pallet jacks to receive, load and stock grocery products.

Fred Meyer is a subsidiary of Kroger, Inc., a company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Kroger reported more than $75 billion in revenue in 2010.  In the first quarter of 2011, Kroger’s profits were $432.3 million, an increase of 16%.  Teamsters Local 117 represents approximately 16,000 members, with more than 1,000 members employed in the grocery warehouse industry.

For more information, contact Paul Zilly of Teamsters Local 117 at 206-441-4860 ext. 1269.

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