EUGENE, Ore. -- The union representing Fred Meyer workers is hoping that a boycott will put pressure on the grocer ahead of the next round of negotiations.
UFCW Local 555 said they called for the boycott after 15 months of ongoing negotiations with the grocer and its parent company, Kroger. The union is asking for better wages and the removal of what they call a gender wage gap within the company. The union said employees at the stores are currently working without a contract.
The union is negotiating on behalf of about 25,000 workers across Oregon and Southwest Washington.
⚡️ “Fred Meyer boycott called by UFCW Local 555”https://t.co/I3pvIQwc50
— UFCW Local 555 (@ufcw555) September 23, 2019
In its call for the boycott, they said the company has "continually refused to respond to reasonable pleas to fix gross inequity in pay and thereafter committed unfair labor practices to coerce employees to settle for less."
The union authorized a strike weeks ago. Representative Jeff White said members in the Eugene and Springfield area are training for a strike Monday night in the case negotiations stall.
"We hope it doesn't come to that, but we always prepare for it. It is another economic action we can take against the company. We hope it doesn't come to that, and hope this Thursday and Friday they come to us with a better offer."
According to Fred Meyer spokesperson Jeffery Temple, boycotts and strikes can actually harm the employees themselves.
"It doesn't help the negotiation process at all. A boycott against Fred Meyer can actually hurt associates and their families, and ironically help competitors, many of which are non-union."
Customers KEZI 9 News spoke with said they supported the workers but were unwilling to stop shopping at the store. One customer was a former employee and said the issues the union brings up have been problems for decades.
"It doesn't surprise me. The writing was on the wall then. If they have the same type of management style then I would imagine the same problems still exist," said Aaron Danton.
According to Temple, the company has taken note of the boycott.
"We have certainly heard a mixed bag. There's a general concern, but most people want to make sure their store is open," he said.