OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Labor trouble could expand to two more counties for grocery store operators Tuesday. Union members in Thurston and Mason counties are voting to authorize a strike after their contract expired two weeks ago.
As workers prepare picket signs, a symbol of solidarity greeted union members as they turned in their ballots. Grocery store worker Anita Donaldson cast her strike vote before work.
“I'm a single mom, not getting child support” said Donaldson.
Her fear is grocery companies will drop health care benefits for employees working less than 30 hours a week.
“It's very hard. I can't afford insurance. I can't even afford buy food in my house,” she said.
A simple yes or no vote will determine if more than a thousand grocery store workers walk off the job in Thurston and Mason county grocery chains like Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Albertson's.
“Sounds like everyone in there from the feel of the room is going to vote strike,” said Jeff Smith, a grocery store union member.
Although both sides say there's been progress over the past couple of days, there are still huge differences in health and pay plans, like getting rid of holiday pay and some wage increases.
“No one wants to strike. You don't. It's a hardship. We had takeaways during the last two contracts,” said Doug Trougstead, UFCW 367 member.
“It looks like to me the management is taking a step backwards,” said State Representative Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, who stopped by the strike vote to show his support.
“When you start whacking on the living wage, you impact the whole community,” he said.
Both sides are expected to go back to the bargaining table Wednesday. Meanwhile, union members will continue to cast their votes and prepare to strike if necessary.
It could take all night Tuesday for ballots to be counted before we learn the results.
If union members authorize a strike, they still need to give employers 72 hours notice before they can picket.
KING 5 has sent emails and calls to the grocery chains; they have yet to respond.