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UFCW Local 555 says promising $15 an hour is 'a slap in the face'; cancels labor contracts with Kroger.

KOIN6 NEWS - Fred Meyer grocery stores are gearing up for a potential employee strike. A union representing Portland-area grocery workers said Tuesday, Sept. 10, that it canceled contracts with Kroger because of unfair labor practices.

Representatives of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555 said the action came after local Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores began posting signs for replacement workers in case union members strike in late September. Signs advertising for the replacement workers promised pay of $15 per hour, something the union saw as a "slap in the face."

"Members are furious and rightfully so," said Kelley McAllister, UFCW Local 555 communications director in Tigard. "They're trying to hire temporary workers and then ask our folks who are making $2 to $3 an hour less to train those people? That feels like a slap in the face."

UFCW Local 555 represents about 25,000 grocery, retail, health care and other workers across Oregon and Southwest Washington. Local grocery stores covered by UFCW contracts include Fred Meyer, QFC, Albertson's and Safeway. More than 90 percent of grocery union members voted in late August to authorize a strike.

Fred Meyer stores are bracing for that potential strike. Store executives have hosted job fairs for temp workers, posting signs and advertising positions. Company officials said the stores were prepared to stay open if a strike happens.

Jeffery Temple, Fred Meyer's director of corporate affairs, said the company was "hopeful that there won't be a strike. But if there is, people need access to food, everyone needs to eat still. So we're doing our due diligence to post for replacement workers to keep our stores open if need be."

UFCW Local 555 representatives said the company's posting of a $15-per-hour wage for replacement workers "demonstrates that Fred Meyer can actually afford to pay those workers more than they actually are." Temple said the wage "doesn't include the premium health care or retirement pension that the company pays for our associates."

Union leaders plan to annouce future labor actions on Sept. 22.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can find their original story here.

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