COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Kroger union members in central Ohio inched closer to establishing a picket line Friday after a majority rejected the grocery chain’s most recent contract offer and authorized a strike.
Even though more than 80% of members in the Columbus division who voted were in favor of authorizing a strike, it doesn’t mean one will happen. But it does give the union the ability to call one, according to a copy of a United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1059 membership email obtained by NBC4.
A statement from a Kroger representative did not specify what would happen at stores if workers went on strike, instead emphasizing that one hasn’t been called.
“It’s business as usual at Kroger. A strike authorization doesn’t mean a strike,” said Amy McCormick, corporate affairs manager for the Columbus division.
The tentative agreement, voted on Tuesday through Thursday by 6,700 union members, was the third proposed by Kroger. Both Kroger and the UFCW had recommended members ratify this version, as well as the previous two proposals, but 55% of membership rejected the offer.
McCormick said Kroger was “disappointed” in the outcome of the vote.
Several central Ohioans told NBC4 they understood why workers might want to strike.
“I would absolutely be in favor of a strike to get better workers rights, better healthcare and better pay. I’ve been there before. A pay raise is well overdue,” Columbus resident Cam Clark said.
UFCW Local President Randy Quickel said in a statement the union has asked Kroger to come back to the negotiating table.
The major sticking point is believed to be over what Kroger has offered as a wage increase. In its message to workers, the union also said what comes next is “in Kroger’s hands.”
“Strike preparation and planning has already been underway, since Kroger characterized their proposal as a ‘Last Best Final Offer.’ Please prepare for that possibility,” the email read.
Quickel said that 82 stores and around 12,500 workers fall within the Columbus division.