In a moment somewhat reminiscent of the recent government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, Washington supermarkets narrowly averted a strike with a last minute agreement. A Seattle Times article details the preparations customers, employers and employees made in light of the impending strike. Some customers stocked up early on essentials to avoid crossing picket lines. The four grocery chain employers (Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Safeway and QFC) started looking for temporary employees, willing to cross the picket lines. And employees tried to go about business as usual while making plans to pay bills while on strike and picketing. Just two hours before the strike deadline supermarket representatives and the union representatives for the near 21,000 local supermarket employees reached a tentative agreement and avoiding a strike. Employees still need to vote and approve the contract agreement, but both sides are optimistic.
The supermarket employees had a number of concerns during the contract negotiations some of which led to the vote authorizing the strike. Many were worried about wage freezes, cuts in holiday pay, benefits and sick leave. The proposed contract agreement is reported to maintain good wages, pensions and health benefits. Since the union representative unanimously supported the agreement, they are hopeful the employees will vote to ratify it.
Since an employment contract essentially dictates all of the key terms of employment between an employer and an employee, negotiating contracts can become heated. This is often the case when negotiations are between an employer and a collection of employees, usually a union, with differing needs and demands. For most contract negotiations, the primary topics of interest are wages, hours, health benefits, and sick leave. Length of contract, pensions, advancement protocol and other topics do occasionally arise in negotiations, as well.
Seattle Mandatory Sick Pay
One of the concerns the supermarket employees union had initially in the recent negotiations was sick leave. It has been a year since Seattle enacted its mandatory sick leave ordinance and it appears to have had a more or less positive effect and response. Seattle employers, and employers with at least one employee who works at least 240 hours a year in the city, are required to provide paid sick leave. If the employer already provides the equivalent or better sick leave amount, then the city’s sick leave ordinance does not affect them. A number of the supermarkets involved in the contract negotiations were in Seattle, so it is likely that the full-time employees were generally guaranteed sick leave time. However, some employers do not offer sick leave, or as much sick leave, to part-time or temporary employees which would make it a legitimate concern for those employees and those outside of Seattle. Fortunately, the Seattle ordinance applies to all Seattle employees.
Experienced Washington employment attorneys can help with wage claims, benefit claims, employment agreements and a wide range of other employment concerns.