With an Oct. 3 statement, Tukwila-based Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28, which represents more than 50,000 members across Washington, Alaska and Northern Idaho, announced that it will honor a grocery strike in the Puget Sound region, if one occurs.

The announcement was another step in the ongoing stalemate between grocery worker unions and three prominent retailers in the South Sound region: Safeway, Fred Meyer and Albertsons. UFCW Local 367, which represents roughly 4,000 grocery workers in Pierce County, announced that its members voted on Sept. 25 to authorize a strike against three chains of grocery stores.

“The united memberships of UFCW 367, Teamsters 38 (in Snohomish County) and UFCW 21 (in Seattle) voted 98 percent to support strike authorization,” announced Local 367 on its website.

The union is pushing for a variety of reforms, including pay for holidays and sick leave, better health benefits and an end to cuts in salaries. Contract negotiations have been ongoing for roughly six months, with the stores being represented by Kirkland-based Allied Employers.

In particular, cuts to health care in the latest offer from the stores have rankled union members. The union, however, has reiterated that a strike itself isn't around the corner just yet; a return to the bargaining table is expected before a strike is officially called.

“After the overwhelming support of members to support strike authorization, we anticipate the employers will want to continue to negotiate,” said the Local 367 website.

Allied Employers concurred with the union's assessment of the situation.

“A strike authorization vote is not unusual,” said Allied spokesman Scott Powers via an emailed statement. “The important thing is that we get back to the bargaining table and do the hard work of putting a negotiated settlement together.

“The employers are focused on reaching agreement on a fair contract that is in the best interests of their associates, customers and businesses.”

Still, the three unions have secured locations for strike headquarters and trained strike captains as a contingency. The stores, meanwhile, will continue to operate, with union members working under an indefinite extension of the current contract. Both sides can give 72-hour notice to end the extension and/or call for a strike.

Talks between the two sides resumed last week.