Kroger workers in Houston are once again considering strike action as they clash with the Cincinnati grocer over wages, health care and staffing levels.

They could go on strike “by next week,” union officials said. The strike authorization vote was underway on Sunday and the votes will be counted at the start of the week.

Workers voted overwhelmingly in favor of the strike last November, although union officials decided to continue negotiating the terms of a contract that has yet to be solidified. The strike would affect some 14,000 workers in Harris County and several surrounding counties, according to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 455.

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Union officials said they wanted to give workers another chance to speak out before going on strike.

“With this vote, Kroger’s grocers are sending a clear message that they are ready to stand up for the right pay, lower prescription costs and the quality health care they have won on the front lines of this pandemic.” said UFCW Local 455 president Brandon Hopkins. in a report.

Kroger said in a statement that he has already invested $ 56 million in pay increases in response to the negotiations.

“This is the third time that UFCW Local 455 has asked its members to authorize a strike and potentially disrupt their lives in the midst of a pandemic,” said Clara Campbell, regional director of corporate affairs for Kroger. “The most productive thing the union can do is work with the company to come to an agreement and end the stalemate in negotiations.

The union and Kroger fought throughout the pandemic after their contract expired in April 2020 and couldn’t agree on a new one.

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