On Sunday evening, Teamsters driving grocery home delivery trucks for Safeway came together to participate in their first-ever strike authorization vote. The group of about 90 drivers says it has been in negotiations for a first contract since late last year.
“However, faced with slow progress and management’s unwillingness to back off from several unacceptable proposals, the group decided to demonstrate their commitment to getting a first contract by taking a strike authorization vote, and voted overwhelmingly in favor,” said Teamsters Local 174 of Tukwila, Washington, in a statement.
“There were several issues that led the negotiating team to decide that a strike authorization vote was the right approach,” the group said. “One major issue has been Safeway.com management blatantly disregarding the principle of seniority by putting new hires into full-time positions without offering those positions to current part-time employees. Another major problem in the negotiations has been management’s insistence on proposals that would allow them to withhold better routes and hours from drivers on the basis of qualifications, including ‘attitude.’”
“I’ve been diagnosed with a ‘bad attitude’ since the third grade,” said Local 174 Director of Negotiations Patty Warren at Sunday’s meeting. “We’re not going to agree to let them pick and choose who gets to work based on who they like the most. That runs contrary to everything we do as a union.”
“As usual, our hope is that a strike is not necessary to get to a contract for these drivers,” said Rick Hicks, Local 174 secretary-treasurer. “However, the group has spoken clearly and in one voice: management needs to start listening when we tell them that if they won’t respect seniority, they are going to have a problem.”
Local 174 also represents nearly 150 Safeway truck drivers out of Safeway’s distribution center in Auburn, Washington. If the Safeway.com drivers were to strike, these truck drivers would honor the picket line, halting delivery of groceries to Safeway stores throughout the state.