Union leaders announced Thursday that 30,000 local grocery workers voted to authorize a strike. That could begin as early as Sunday.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union rejected a final offer from Allied Employers, which represents QFC, Safeway, Albertson's, and Fred Meyer stores. The vote was 98 percent in favor of a strike.
The union says it will now go back to the stores to negotiate one more time. If those talks fail, picketing would begin 72 hours later.
Employee health care is one of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations.
The union has not had a work stoppage since 1989.
A strike authorization vote is not unusual, said Scott Powers with Allied Employers. 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.
The Teamsters, all 161 one of them, also voted unanimously to reject the latest offer by dairy giant Darigold.However, Teamsters leadership said they have no date for a strike. The union has expressed concern over the company's offer 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.
The union admits public support is crucial in a labor battle. Asked if they would cross a picket line, customers outside on Seattle Safeway said they have to weigh community over convenience.
That's a hard question to answer because I know all the people here, said one customer. I really like them.