The last non-union Fred Meyer employees within a six-county area of western Washington voted to organize by an overwhelming margin, 39-12, on Thursday.
“Walking into that store [right now] is like walking into a wall of union support,” said Colton Rose, a union organizer, ahead of the vote in a text message. “I’d hate to be the one fighting against it.”
The Lacey store’s grocery department was already unionized. Now, the store’s 64 general merchandising employees will also be represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367, which already represents the 12 other Fred Meyer stores in its jurisdiction.
Mellisa Pfingston has been a lead in the Lacey store’s cosmetics department for about a year-and-a-half and also worked at the store about 17 years ago. She recalled employees talking about unionizing on and off during her time with the major grocer and retailer.
However, Pfingston said the conversations didn’t become part of a real effort until after workers organized at a store in Tumwater in 2022. The Tumwater store was the first Fred Meyer in Local 367’s jurisdiction to see new unionizing in decades.
“Tumwater and Sumner going union, I think that helped to make people feel more confident. Like yeah, we actually have a chance at this thing,” Pfingston said. Workers at a Sumner store voted to join Local 367 earlier this year.
Pfingston said management initially told her she might not be able to vote because of her position in cosmetics, which has existed in a gray area between the grocery department and general merchandising.
“I’m [in] grocery when it suits Fred Meyer: when they want me to add to the grocery numbers and add to the grocery rolls and be on the grocery schedule,” Pfingston said. “But when it doesn’t suit them as far as getting grocery pay and holidays, then I’m not grocery.”
While union officials said management had been “abnormally quiet” just days before the vote, workers allege that representatives of Fred Meyer arrived on Wednesday and engaged in intimidation and other anti-union tactics.
“I’ve never been in this position and it’s very uncomfortable, especially at my workplace,” said Brandy Porter, a florist at the store. “I feel like I’m gonna get fired.”
Porter said a Fred Meyer representative told her she wouldn’t be allowed to vote, and when she went to vote on the morning of the election, she was told her vote would be contested. The conversation, she said, only strengthened her commitment to the union.
A representative from Fred Meyer and a manager at the Lacey store did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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