Gig Harbor QFC store closure means job shuffling for area workers

The Gig Harbor QFC located near the intersection of Olympic and Point Fosdick Drives will reopen next January after a remodel of the store.
The Gig Harbor QFC located near the intersection of Olympic and Point Fosdick Drives will reopen next January after a remodel of the store. Staff photographer

Before announcing the temporary closure of the Gig Harbor QFC, the store’s parent company initiated talks with the union that represents the vast majority of its workers, a union spokesman said Wednesday.

The result was a “store-closure” agreement, an unusual but not unique arrangement that ensured the QFC’s 74 employees could transfer to other Kroger stores in the area with their benefits and seniority intact, said Nathe Lawver, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367.

“Kroger reached out to us and said, ‘hey, there’s a unique situation going on. Can you help us?’ So we were able to protect those jobs,” Lawver said.

Kroger announced last week that it will close the Gig Harbor QFC, 5010 Point Fosdick Drive, in late August until mid-January for a major renovation. UFCW 367 represents 70 of the store’s 74 employees, Lawver said, though all of the employees are covered by the agreement.

If the Gig Harbor QFC employees want to return to the store after it reopens, they will have to apply for those jobs, Lawver confirmed. The original Gig Harbor QFC employees will be given first preference over other candidates.

But for now, those workers can transfer to any Kroger store in Pierce County. Because they are maintaining their seniority, it’s possible that they will bump less senior workers off the schedule at their new store.

“I’m certain there will be people that are concerned,” Lawver said. “Our job is to monitor and make sure everyone is treated fairly within those workplaces. Each store is assigned a union (representative) that members can talk to should they feel they are not being justly treated.”

Meanwhile, the QFC’s change in format will put it in more direct competition with the Texas-based Whole Foods, which opened in May in University Place; and the locally owned Harbor Greens, which opened almost 9 years ago just a quarter-mile from the QFC.

The new QFC will “focus on natural and local and organic,” a Kroger spokeswoman has said, adding that the company is investing $6 million in the Gig Harbor store.

Whole Foods is working to attract customers from a broad geographic range — it offers a $5 reduction on a purchase of $50 or more for people who paid the toll on the Narrows Bridge on their way to shop.

Harbor Greens co-owner Chad Roy said Thursday that he and his business partner will be working on a strategy to counter the QFC’s reopening.

“It’s not easy when someone dumps that kind of dollars into a facility,” Roy said. “People want to go and see it.”

Harbor Greens’ other location, in University Place, saw a dip after Whole Foods opened a mile away on Bridgeport Way. Roy said that was expected, and the U.P. store’s numbers are recovering. And, Roy said his store’s Gig Harbor location has been benefiting from Safeway’s transition to a Haggen, which hasn’t gone smoothly.