SEATTLE (FNS) -- Area locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, representing 12,000 grocery clerks here, initiated a public awareness campaign at a rally at a Safeway supermarket here last week aimed at drawing attention to the ongoing labor contract negotiations with chain supermarket executives.
The primary sticking point, said union members, is the companies' desire to strip out certain health plan benefits totaling $450 per month per employee.
"We want to let our friends, families and shoppers know what is going on," said Rhonda Torres, a Safeway employee. "We believe we have come to the table with a fair contract with affordable health care."
Union members have continued working under contract extensions since May 4 while the two sides negotiate.
Following last week's rally, attendees went door to door in the North Seattle neighborhood surrounding the Safeway store, asking consumers to pledge their support should a strike transpire.
"We are asking the community to pledge their support, if needed, by not shopping and to urge the corporate giants to reach a fair contract with the union," Torres said.
Both sides are hoping to avoid a strike, said Jill Cashen, assistant to the director, UFCW, Washington, D.C. "Safeway and Kroger lost billions of dollars in Southern California during the strike and lost customers that will never go back to their stores. We would like to settle the contract," she said. "It makes no economic sense to demand health care cuts here," she added, citing the chains' dominance in the region.