Frequently Asked Questions About Going on Strike

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received about going on strike. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

March 5: Be There to Vote!

On Thursday, March 5, we will be holding contract meetings for Giant and Safeway members. We have reached a tentative agreement with Giant that we are prepared to recommend for ratification. However, Safeway continues to refuse to negotiate a fair contract. If Safeway doesn't provide a fair offer by March 5, we will recommend you vote to reject their greedy offer and take a strike vote.

What are some of the next steps we will be taking?

On Thursday, March 5, we will be holding contract meetings for Giant and Safeway members. We have reached a tentative agreement with Giant that we are prepared to recommend for ratification. However, Safeway continues to refuse to negotiate a fair contract. Safeway’s current proposal is not one we would recommend for ratification. If Safeway’s offer does not improve, we will be recommending you vote to reject Safeway’s insulting offer and to authorize a strike. We need to show this company that we are united and we will do whatever it takes to get the fair contract we have earned.

It is important for everyone to attend these very important meetings to vote. The larger and the stronger the vote the better. If the proposals are accepted, we go back to work under a new contract. If the proposals are rejected, we will vote to go on strike. A two thirds majority is necessary to authorize a strike. If a strike is authorized, we will begin a strike at the time we determine is the most strategic. That could be immediately after the vote, or it could be after additional bargaining.

Safeway management told me they are investing a lot of money into this contract already and their offer keeps them competitive in the market while compensating us fairly. Is this true?

Beware of management misinformation and rumors.Safeway/Albertsons is controlled by a private equity group led by Cerberus Capital Management, which has extracted $350 million from Safeway/Albertsons in management fees and dividends over the last several years. Safeway is profitable, yet their current offer is below what they have done in other parts of the country and even below what the average raises are for non-union retail employees.

At a time like this, management tries to take advantage of employees’ fears of competition, profitability, and a strike to pressure them into accepting a sub-standard contract. We need to stand firm for what we deserve.

Will there be a strike at my store?

Before a strike could take place, members would reject the companies’ proposal and authorize a strike. It takes a two-thirds majority to authorize a strike. This ensures we have a solid majority who are serious about taking action for a fair contract. If a strike is authorized and carried out, your store will be on strike.

If members vote to strike, what would happen?

Currently, we have day to day contract extensions in place with both companies. That agreement requires us to give a 72-hour notice to the employers to cancel the extensions before a strike. The actual start date of a strike is a tactical decision and depends on a number of factors, including when it will have the biggest impact and if all other avenues of progress are exhausted. However, a strike cannot happen without a vote of the members authorizing it. 

How long would a strike last?

There is no way to predict how long a strike would last. The 2019 Stop & Shop strike lasted 11 days. The Southern California grocery strike in 2003-2004, which involved Safeway/Albertsons, lasted four and a half months. The key to a successful strike is a united work force and support from our allies and the shoppers in the communities where we work. 

Can I be fired for striking?

It is against the law for management to fire you because you exercise your legal right to strike. 

Do I receive pay while on strike?

You do not receive pay from your employer while on strike, except for time you have already worked.

The International Union will pay $100.00 a week beginning the eighth day of a strike. This means you will not get a strike pay check until after you have been on strike for 2 weeks. To be eligible for strike pay, you need to work your shifts on the picket line and be a member of the union.

Your union also has a hardship fund to assist members whose families face particularly difficult financial situations. If you are in such a hardship position, please let your representative know so that we can arrange assistance.

We also have several community partners including a credit union, many food banks and other services across the DMV to help us through a strike. Read our guide on how to prepare for a strike.

Can I get unemployment when on strike?

You are not eligible for unemployment benefits while on strike. 

Do I accrue sick leave or vacation time when on strike?

You will not accrue sick leave or vacation while you are on strike. 

Do I pay dues while on strike?

Members who are on strike or locked out do not pay dues but remain in good standing in the union. UFCW Local 400 has over a third of its members who work in jobs inside other grocery stores or health care, retail etc. and they will still be working and paying dues which will help replenish the strike fund. 

If I am not yet a member of the union, can I go on strike?

Yes. All employees in the bargaining unit are represented by the union. All employees, even those in their probationary period, have the legal right to strike and honor the picket line. Non-members within the bargaining unit have the same protection under the law as members do during a strike situation. However, you must be a member in order to receive strike pay and other resources your local union provides during the strike. If you are not a member and would like to become one to take advantage of these resources, contact your representative or shop steward to fill out a membership application as soon as possible.

What about medical benefits during a strike?

If you qualify for health insurance, any month you work for a day, you are eligible for medical insurance for the entire month. For example, if you work April 1 and go on strike April 5, your medical insurance will continue for the entire month of April. It is possible that your prescription, dental, and vision benefits will be terminated before the end of the month. If your benefits are terminated you will have the option of paying the full premium to continue your benefits.

Can I work other places while on strike?

Yes. However, in order to win a strike we must have everyone participate in strong picket lines. In order to receive strike pay, you must to work your shifts on the picket line. If, for physical reasons, you cannot picket, there are other ways you can support the strike. 

Can my friends and family join the picket line?

Yes! Our fight is our friend’s, families’ and communities’ fight. However, they will be required to abide by the same rules of conduct expected of all bargaining unit members. Violations of those rules will not be tolerated due to the potential legal liabilities involved. 

What happens if I cross the picket line?

Whether or not you can cross a picket line is not a legal question, but rather a question of if you will stand by your co-workers and fight for a fair contract. Solidarity wins strikes and a better standard of living; breaks in solidarity only advance the interests of the companies. During a strike, the companies’ only interest is winning the strike and crossing the picket line will result in a weaker contract. 

What can we expect from management as we organize for a strike?

Management will try very hard to scare employees into settling for less. The companies will likely put out information attempting to convince you to accept their offer or tell you they need more time at the bargaining table. You may be required to attend mandatory “informational” meetings on work time to hear why you should accept the employer contract offer. You have the right to express your opinion, counter misinformation, and take notes of what management says. Union members have the right to act together and it is illegal for management to threaten you or your employment in any way as you prepare for a potential strike. The companies need to know we are getting ready and we are serious.

What else are we going to do to win a fair contract?

The key ingredient to winning a fair contract is the unity and resolve of the membership. Each action we take is part of a broader plan to bring increasing pressure on the employers to change their contract offer. It’s important for each action to be well organized and have the participation of everyone. We have begun to get the public involved – through press coverage and our actions. Our customers, elected officials, and community allies have all joined our fight and we will also have the backing of other labor unions in the area. If we stay united, we can win a fair contract. 

How can I get updated information on the status of negotiations?

Text alerts are the easiest way to stay up-to-date on the latest news from your union. Click here to sign up for text alerts. Every update is also posted on our union website.

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