Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Nearly 10,000 Fred Meyers and QFC workers went on strike Friday morning demanding better pay and benefits from Oregon's largest grocery chain store.
Many workers' contracts have expired in the Portland area, Newburg, Bend, and Klamath Falls.
The union says that Fred Meyer didn't improve wages, healthcare, and pensions, or pay what it promised workers during the pandemic.
It also said that the company cut hazard pay over a year ago while workers continued to work through the pandemic.
Fred Meyer is also accused of illegally hiring replacement employees to fill the need for workers during the strike.
The store didn't share information that would allow workers to negotiate or bring up grievances with unfair labor practices, it said.
"They were told they were essential workers. And as time went on, that seemed to be not what the company wanted to call them anymore," union communications representative Miles Eshaia told KATU 2 News. "These are people who worked throughout the entire pandemic. They still are working through the entire pandemic, and it's really important they be compensated for that."
A spokesperson for Fred Meyer said the store was willing to come to a deal. The store reported that the average hourly pay for workers is $17.29.
The union notified the store that the strike could last until Dec. 24, affecting shoppers during the holiday season. The store will remain open during the strike, Fred Meyer and QFC said.
A strike threat, a union boycott, and the involvement of a federal mediator led to negotiations between the union and Fred Meyer two years ago.