Arguments About Gender Wage Disparity an Obstacle to Grocery Employees Negotiations

Wage Gap between Man and Woman

If you happened to go shopping at one of Fred Meyer shops in Portland, Oregon, chances are that you noticed an advertisement for employee replacement. The advertisement informs that the alternative might be necessary for the proper functioning of the stores in case of a strike. But is a strike that inevitable?

The grocery employees union, UFCW Local 555, has attempted to arrange a better salary with some of the largest supermarket chains in the region such as QFC, Albertsons, Fred Meyer, and Safeway. The union’s executive Daniel Clay alleged that their negotiations were rather strenuous. The primary field of concern was gender wage discrepancy. 

As Clay explains, predominant problems are salary and salary equality for female workers, as their hard work deserves a generous salary. It is unacceptable that male managers earn their wages by not paying their female employees adequately. 

The Risk of a Strike

UFCW Local 555 represents almost 25,000 employees throughout Southwest Washington and Oregon. According to Clay, the process of negotiations is now at a tipping point. Namely, the employees voted to go on strike in case negotiations remain at a dead end. The union president explains that the workers’ requests are not too demanding, as everyone deserves adequate accommodation, food, and health care. However, it seems that those things are a bit difficult to obtain in 2019.

Where Does the Discrepancy Stem From?

The employee union negotiates salary schedules and advancement with various supermarket chains. Clay alleges that the discrepancy in salaries stems from the job positions male and female workers occupy. For instance, Fred Meyer recognizes Schedule A and Schedule B positions. Schedule A amounts to $17.20 per one hour, as opposed to Schedule B, which amounts to $13.50.

As Clay explains, male workers are more likely to occupy Schedule A position and thus be paid $17.20 per hour. Female workers, on the other hand, will possibly occupy Schedule B position, and make $13.50 per hour. The company’s rationale is that the two positions are different; namely, working in the delicatessen is not as difficult as sorting boxes or arranging fruit and vegetables. 

The truth, however, is that all workers deserve their salaries as they all work hard, Clay explains. Besides, all positions have specific risks of injuries. For instance, employees who work in a delicatessen might cut or burn themselves. This does not make it easier compared to any other position.

Dismissing the Accusations

Fred Meyer’s official representative, Jeffrey Temple, denies the accusations about gender wage discrepancy. Namely, he alleges that there is no discrepancy and explains that certain jobs are paid according to the effort and hours needed to carry it out. He declares that the company perceives those accusations as an inappropriate misrepresentation of their associates.

He further explains that both female and male workers are equal for all shop retailers in the district. They pay their employees according to the identical schedule pattern that the union has settled.

Temple also explained that Fred Meyer company does not assign job positions on the basis of gender. What’s more, the company wants to encourage all interested applicants to apply for positions that suit their lifestyle. The company hopes that its employees will love their jobs and thus remain in it.

Proceeding With Negotiations

As opposed to Temple, Daniel Clay insists that gender wage discrepancy exists, claiming that Fred Meyer is among the companies that are not quite inclined to resolve the salary issues. What’s more, it seems as if they are rather willing to go on strike. 

To return to negotiations, Local 555 scheduled a new meeting early in October. The union is still expecting the response. Namely, they are hoping to obtain an agreement that will satisfy all union members. Going on a strike is the last and inevitable option.

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