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Grocery Workers To Stay On The Job In Seattle Area

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Grocery workers in the Seattle metro area have reached a deal with their employers to avert a strike. Proposed cuts to health insurance were a big reason they almost walked out.


And from a strike that's ended to one that has been averted. Grocery workers in the Seattle metro area were on the verge of walking out over proposed cuts in health insurance. They have now reached a deal with their employers, as Ashley Gross of member station KPLU reports.

ASHLEY GROSS, BYLINE: Cindy LaPlaunt works in the meat department at a Safeway north of Seattle. Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons, the three companies negotiating the new contract, wanted to drop health insurance for thousands of part-time employees. LaPlaunt says protecting health insurance is a top priority for her and the other 21,000 workers.

CINDY LAPLAUNT: That's mostly what all the people wanted. You know, keep what we got. Don't take nothing away.

GROSS: In previous contracts, employees got health coverage if they worked 16 hours a week or more. This time around, the companies wanted to raise that to 30 hours a week. In essence, they'd be pushing those part-time employees onto the government-run health exchanges as other companies have done.

ROBERT LASZEWSKI: Unions are really sort of waking up to the fact that Obamacare may be making their job a lot more difficult.

GROSS: Robert Laszewski is a health policy analyst. He says the new law only requires companies to provide insurance to people who work 30 hours a week or more. That shifts some of the financial burden onto taxpayers.

LASZEWSKI: If Uncle Sam is willing to move in there and be the one to subsidize health insurance, smart employers are going to take advantage of that to the degree that they can.

GROSS: The grocery workers aren't providing details on the agreement yet, but a union spokesman says it does preserve health coverage for part-timers.

For NPR News, I'm Ashley Gross in Seattle.

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