Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

Pay ranges at Fred Meyer in Bend

The recent union analysis of wages at Fred Meyer was limited to stores in the Portland area. Here is some information about contract wages at Fred Meyer in Bend. (The Redmond Fred Meyer is non-union.)

Schedule A journeypersons start at $15.69 per hour.

Schedule B journeypersons start at $12.55 per hour.

Journeyperson pay kicks in after 7,800 hours of work, or almost four years full-time.

Schedule A apprentice pay ranges from $10.85 to $11.75 per hour.

Schedule B apprentice pay ranges from $10.85 to $11.25 per hour.

Since minimum wage in Deschutes County is $11.25 per hour, the apprentice pay scale actually starts at 10 cents above minimum wage.

Fred Meyer, Safeway and Albertson’s all have contracts with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555. The employers are allowed to offer pay that exceeds the minimum.

Source: United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555

In 1969, the “head girl” in bakery sales and snack bar at an Albertson’s grocery store in Oregon would be paid an extra $5 per week, according to a contract negotiated by the former Retail Clerks Union.

A Portland Food and Drug Clerks contract from the same era ensured, “Delicatessen Sales girls shall devote their time exclusively to that department.”

Duties and pay for men and women are no longer written into grocery workers union contracts. But the contracts that govern thousands of people who work for Fred Meyer, Albertson’s, Safeway and QFC in Oregon and southwest Washington still assign higher rates of pay to certain jobs, which are divided into “Schedule A” and “Schedule B,” according to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.

Although all the jobs are open to men and women, men hold two-thirds of the higher-paying Schedule A positions at Fred Meyer, according to a union analysis of wage data. This is despite the fact that Fred Meyer hires men and women in roughly equal numbers, and there is an equal number of jobs under each schedule, the union says.

The union analyzed wage data provided by Fred Meyer and combined it with member data. The gap between average wages under Schedule A and Schedule B is $3.53 per hour, the analysis found.

“We’re saying there are inadvertent patterns here that we think need to be fixed,” Local 555 communications director Kelley McAllister said.

The union, which represents about 785 people in Central Oregon, raises the pay gap issue amid ongoing contract negotiations with the supermarket companies. The union requested wage data from all the companies, but Fred Meyer, which is owned by Kroger, was the first to respond, McAllister said.

“This is pretty much a misrepresentation of our associates,” Fred Meyer spokesman Jeffery Temple said. Under the contracts, everyone who holds a given job, man or woman, is paid the same. “Essentially they’re paid based upon their negotiated wage progression, which the union negotiated.”

There’s no concerted effort to keep women in the lower-paying departments, Temple said. The Schedule B jobs include deli, cheese kiosk, bakery sales, Starbucks and ClickList, which is Fred Meyer’s online ordering and pickup service.

“We’re always needing good employees in all roles. We don’t target any type of gender for any type of role. We statistically hire more women,” Temple said.

In hopes of reducing turnover rates, Fred Meyer encourages people to apply for jobs that interest them, Temple said.

“The more we looked at it, the more shocked we were because they’re mirror images of each other,” McAllister said. Women occupy two-thirds of the lower-paying jobs, she said.

Jane Thompson, a seafood clerk at the Bend Fred Meyer store, said her job is essentially the same as wrapping meat. But the starting wage for journeyperson meat wrappers is $15.69 per hour, and the starting wage in seafood is $13.15 per hour, according to Local 555.

“We put seafood out into the case. Clean it, cut it, wrap it, package it. Wash dishes, clean floors, clean the cases,” Thompson said. People in both departments do a lot of lifting, she said.

Thompson, 65, previously worked as a meat wrapper, but she believes she was pushed out of the job to make way for men. Since then, she’s seen young men hired to work in seafood and then quickly transferred to the all-male meat department.

“They didn’t do that when we had a woman hired,” Thompson said.

Fred Meyer does not attempt to explain how or why jobs are assigned to the different pay scales. The higher-paying departments include grocery checkout, cold wall, grocery freight and produce.

McAllister believes the pay differences evolved from the days of explicit gender discrimination. In the 1960s, deli work paid less than produce, and that difference persists, she said.

The average wage on Schedule A is $17.22 per hour, and the average wage on Schedule B is $13.69, according to the union’s analysis.

The analysis was limited to Portland-area stores to eliminate the need to account for cost-of-living differences across Oregon and southwest Washington. The analysis was also limited to people who have worked their way into the journeyperson pay scale. Journeyperson pay starts after 7,800 hours, or nearly four years working full-time.

Temple noted that as part of contract negotiations, Fred Meyer has offered pay increases to “key departments,” including bakery sales and deli. “Those are areas we know there’s an opportunity to lift wages,” he said.

A comprehensive offer posted on Fred Meyer’s bargaining website shows Schedule A workers receiving increases of 25 cents an hour and Schedule B getting 35-cent raises.

The union is not satisfied with the company’s offer, McAllister said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com