The union janitors at Portland-area Fred Meyer stores are locked in a contract battle with the company, owned by grocery giant Kroger Foods. The main issues are living wages and affordable health care for family members. After six weeks of negotiations, the two sides are still far apart.
This reporter spoke to Dwain, a janitor with the Peninsula Fred Meyerstore, at the February 9th rally and march at the Hawthorne store. He told me that journeyman janitors make $9.53 an hour. As for health care for family members, Dwain pays $45 a week for his wife's coverage. Dwain finds it hard to make ends meet. Dwain has been a union janitor (SEIU#49) for twelve years.
According to sources, Kroger offered the workers a twenty cent raise for each of the three years of the new contract--meaning that a journeyman would make $10.13 in the last year of the contract. SEIU (Service Employees International Union) local 49 bargaining team put forth a proposal for $1 for each year. The two sides have not budged in weeks.
In the health care matter: the SEIU-organized janitors demand affordable family member coverage; Kroger/Fred Meyer say no family member coverage.
Kroger Foods is a wealthy corporation; it could easily afford to pay its workers living wages and provide adequate family health care. But, like the vast majority of corporate giants, it will do so only if enough pressure is applied. For more information, contact Wesley Jones (SEIU#49) at 503-236-4949 ext. 35, or Jobs with Justice at 503-236-5573.