TACOMA, Wash - Health care costs are driving two local unions to the brink of a strike.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union took final votes Wednesday night on whether to reject a final offer from Allied Employers, which represents QFC, Safeway, Albertson's, and Fred Meyer Stores.
"They want to take away our health care," says Eva Johannson, who says she's worked for a Tacoma Fred Meyer store for the past 13 years. "I'm ready [to strike]."
The union, and its other bargaining units, are expected to make a formal announcement on the vote Thursday at 9:00 a.m. The union's negotiators had asked for strike authority, but have signaled they would still like to negotiate. They would have to give the stores a 72 hour notice before workers walked out. The union has not had a work stoppage since 1989.
Allied responded to the vote in a statement saying, "A strike authorization vote is not unusual. The important thing is that we get back to the bargaining table and do the hard work of putting a negotiated settlement together."
The employers are focused on reaching agreement on a fair contract that is in the best interests of their associates, customers and businesses," said Scott Powers, Allied Vice President.
The Teamsters, all 161 one of them, also voted unanimously to reject the latest offer by dairy giant Darigold.
"It's Deja Vu all over again," said Donna Lamb, quoting Yogi Berra.
However, Teamsters leadership said they have no date for a strike. Lamb and others expressed concern over the company's offer on on health care. Leaders also claim that Darigold was threatening to lock out workers unless they agreed to a new deal.
"Those claims are unfounded and untrue," said Darigold Vice President Steve Rowe.
"Our offer is very fair, and we're proud of it." Rowe said there is a mechanism in the offer so employees would not pay more than ten percent of health care costs.