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Union Calls Off Fred Meyer Boycott After Reaching Tentative Deal

<p>The Hawthorne Fred Meyer store is pictured in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. A local union representing grocery workers from across Oregon and southwest Washington called for a boycott of Fred Meyer stores in the region.</p>

The Hawthorne Fred Meyer store is pictured in Portland, Ore., Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. A local union representing grocery workers from across Oregon and southwest Washington called for a boycott of Fred Meyer stores in the region.

UPDATE (Sept. 28, 2:21 p.m. PT) — Union officials said Saturday that they have reached a tentative deal with grocers that will benefit employees and end a weeklong boycott of Fred Meyer stores.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 called for the boycott of Fred Meyer locations amid tense contract negotiations that began more than a year ago.

Union communications director Kelley McAllister did not release details of the contract, saying in a statement that those particulars would be "embargoed until our members have reviewed and voted on whether to ratify the tentative agreement."

Representatives for grocery employers and the union worked through the night Friday and reached the deal around 9 a.m., Saturday, according to McAllister. This week's negotiations were the 13th time the sides had met since June 2018 and the first time a federal mediator had been involved.

McAllister said having a mediator involved helped change the tenor of the negotiations and likely led to the deal.

"The unity team is very pleased with how everything went. They got all of their concerns addressed," she said.

The news no doubt came as a relief to shoppers in Oregon who had been abiding by the union's request to boycott Fred Meyer.

"We are now asking all of our supporters to cease the boycott and resume their normal shopping habits," McAllister said in a statement.

Speaking to OPB on Saturday, McAllister said she found the customer support for the boycott overwhelming.

"We had customers request flyers that we sent out. We had people putting together their own lawn signs," she said. "I think that had a huge impact to help employers recognize that workers are members of the community."

While details of the contract remain unclear, the dispute centered in part on wages. The union also said it had discovered a gender pay gap at Portland-area Fred Meyer stores that should be addressed.

In a statement, Fred Meyer director of corporate affairs Jeffery Temple said the business was glad to have a tentative agreement that "secures increased wages, continued premium health care coverage and pension stability."

"We thank our hardworking associates for continuing to serve our customers and communities every day," Temple wrote. "Our top priority is to do what is best - provide our customers with the freshest products and the friendliest associates."

Union leaders plan to meet with their members to decide on when to ratify the tentative agreement.

"It’s really wonderful to know that even after the tensions rising, that we were able to get a contract that is workable for both sides," McAllister said. "We are looking forward to the ratification meetings."

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Ryan Haas has been with Oregon Public Broadcasting since 2013. His work has won numerous awards, including two National Magazine Award nominations for the podcast "Bundyville." Prior to working at OPB, Haas worked at newspapers in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and the Caribbean.