Organized labor is turning up the heat after months of contentious negotiations with management at Fred Meyer.
The union's latest tactic: a call for an immediate consumer boycott of all Freddy's stores in Oregon and Southwest Washington where employees are working without a labor contract.
"If Fred Meyer won't listen to workers' voices, perhaps they will listen to the sound of departments devoid of shoppers," Local 555 Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Anderson said on Sunday, Sept. 22.
For the past 15 months, the United Food and Commercial Workers union has been waging war against what it says are unfair labor practices, low wages and an environment where women are paid less than men.
Fred Meyer says gender is not a factor in remuneration, but certain jobs have higher pay scales based on "difficulty" or "scheduling requirements."
The company — a subsidiary of the Kroger brand — pushed back against the "inaccurate" narrative in a full page ad published on the back cover of the Sunday Oregonian on Sept. 22.
"Typically, we wouldn't acknowledge misleading stories, until it becomes personal," said Fred Meyer President Dennis Gibson. "Gender is never a factor in our hiring or compensation decisions for our associates."
This isn't the first sign of tension bubbling up from the rank-and-file.
Earlier this month, social media lit up with posts about the store's push to hire temporary workers at $15 an hour, which is more than some full-time workers make. Management says that's not a fair comparison, because the short-timers aren't eligible for health care benefits or the pension.
UFCW subsequently held a "flash mob" style protest on Friday, Sept. 13, where employees dressed as Rosie the Riveter at the Northeast Portland superstore at 3030 N.E. Weidler St.
Both sides are set to resume negotiations on Thursday, Sept. 26. In a statement released on Sunday, a spokesman for the chain said its locations are operating with "business as usual."
"We love our associates," said Freddy's Director of Corporate Affairs, Jeffrey Temple. "The truth is that these actions don't help the negotiation process at all and calls to boycott Fred Meyer hurt associates and their families, customers and communities, and ironically helps competitors, many of which are non-union."
UFCW wants consumers to boycott Fred Meyer stores across the metro region, including in Portland, Gresham, Happy Valley, Vancouver, Sandy, Hillsboro, Wood Village, Canby, Wilsonville, Beaverton, Scappoose, Tualatin, Tigard, Oregon City, Milwaukie and Clackamas. Click here for the full list.
Fred Meyer's full statement:
At Fred Meyer, we are proud of our 97 years of putting people before profits, and we love our associates. Our purpose is to Feed the Human Spirit, and we know that recent allegations intended to make Fred Meyer look like an unfair or uncaring employer are an unfortunate misrepresentation of the reality for our great associates. The truth is that these actions don't help the negotiation process at all and calls to boycott Fred Meyer hurt associates and their families, customers and communities, and ironically helps competitors, many of which are non-union.
Our goal is to reach a fair and balanced agreement that works well for our associates and our stores as soon as possible. Our next meetings with union negotiators are on 9/26 and 9/27. It is business as usual in our stores, and we want to thank our associates for serving our customers as they always have. They do a great job and we are very proud. At Fred Meyer, we are going to keep our focus where it should be, on our associates and taking care of our customers.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.