Puget Sound-area grocery workers edge closer to strike

SEATTLE - About 21,000 Puget Sound-area grocery workers are edging closer to a strike, as organizers were gathering Saturday night to launch a food donation drive to support the striking workers.

Unresolved issues include wages, holiday pay and health benefits.

United Food and Commercial Workers spokesman Tom Geiger says 72-hour strike notice was given Friday night to QFC, Safeway, Albertsons and Fred Meyer stores.

He has said union members in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Thurston and Mason counties have rejected current proposals and voted to authorize a strike.

"I'm stressed out about it," Safeway worker of 14 years Cathy Logston says. "I don't want to go on strike, but I want my benefits."

Allied Employers Vice President Scott Powers is the employers' lead negotiator.

In a statement, he says "the only way to work through the remaining issues is at the bargaining table." He says the companies remain committed to reaching an agreement that is good for both sides.

Grocery workers have taken comfort in the support they're receiving from customers. Monica Hill is one customer who says she plans to walk the picket lines with union members if they strike.

"These big stores have no right to be depriving people of a decent living," Hill says.

The last area grocery strike was in 1989 and lasted nearly three months.