By Elliot Njus

The Oregonian

The union representing thousands of Fred Meyer and Safeway workers — including roughly 785 union members in Central Oregon — has called for a boycott of more than 50 Fred Meyer stores days ahead of a scheduled bargaining session.

The boycott call comes after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 accused the company of pulling employees into one-on-one meetings as an intimidation tactic, which the union said amounts to a violation of federal labor laws. The grocery chain has also posted flyers seeking replacement workers in preparation for a potential strike.

Fred Meyer spokesman Jeffery Temple previously said the meetings never occurred and that the company doesn’t tolerate coercion. On Sunday, he said the accusations will hurt employees and their families, perhaps pushing shoppers to nonunion stores.

Meanwhile, he said, it’s business as usual in stores.

The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which referees such disputes, but it likely won’t make a ruling for months. The union, meanwhile, canceled its contracts with Fred Meyer and called for a boycott of stores and departments where employees are as of Sunday working without a contract.

The union and representatives for most major local grocery chains will meet Thursday and Friday, but they didn’t appear close to reaching a resolution. Kelley McAllister, a spokeswoman for the union, said the two sides remain far apart on several issues, primarily wage increases.

The union is seeking a significantly larger wage increase than in the most recent contract to keep up with rising costs of living, the union said. The grocery stores’ negotiators have offered smaller raises.

“We hope (it) will make Fred Meyer and other employers come prepared to offer something close to a reasonable settlement,” McAllister said.

Temple, the Fred Meyer spokesman, said the company is eager to reach an agreement.

“We’ve put out favorable offers, not just for wages, but we provide premium health care benefits,” he said.

The 20,000 workers represented by the union at Fred Meyer, Safeway and other stores have already voted to authorize a strike, but the union hasn’t yet called for one.

The two sides have been negotiating since June 2018.