Grocery contract talks continue, delaying strike



Seattle — Talks over a new labor agreement for thousands of union grocery-store workers in the Puget Sound area continued Saturday, postponing the possibility of a strike. The negotiators made progress Friday, but disagreements remain over wages and benefits, according to a union spokesman.

Tom Geiger, who represents Local 21 of United Food and Commercial Workers, said among the proposals no longer on the table was an attempt to cut employees off company health care benefits if they work less than 30 hours a week.

The talks began Thursday and were scheduled to end Friday. Both sides also have prepared for a walkout: The union said it was making picket-line schedules, and some grocery stores posted fliers seeking replacement job applicants.

The union must give employers 72 hours’ notice before walking out, so a strike would not begin right away, Geiger said.

The negotiations cover about 20,000 workers at Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway and QFC stores in King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties.