'Everything has gone up - except our wages': Grocery store strike possible in Oregon

Safeway and Fred Meyer employees have authorized a strike if they don't get wage increases and progress filling the gender gap.

COOS COUNTY, Ore. -- Safeway and Fred Meyer employees have authorized a strike if they don't get wage increases and progress filling the gender gap.

"All of us are meeting to talk to the employees to try to get them to understand what we're dealing with and that we can't live on those wages," says Safeway employee Anna Forderer, a member of the union bargaining team.

She says employees deal with rising housing costs and everyday expenses: "Everything has gone up - except our wages."

The union says women are paid less than men at Fred Meyer with more men working overnight, heavy freight or produce jobs.

A Fred Meyer representative says that's a misrepresentation.

"Every associate in the same job type, whether a woman or a man, is paid equally by their negotiated wage progressions and these were negotiated for them by their unions," said Fred Meyer rep Jeffrey Temple. "We don't funnel where they apply; we encourage them to apply for jobs that work best for them."

Union representative Kelley McAllister says two-thirds of women work in those lower-wage positions like deli or bakery.

"They don't know that those jobs are going to be $3.50 to $3.70 to $3.90 less in pay."

Temple says Fred Meyer has a total benefits package--competitive wages, premium health care, and generous pensions.

Safeway could not be reached for comment.

Local 555's unity bargaining team will meet with retail representatives from Safeway and Fred Meyer on August 29.

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