Thousands of Puget Sound area grocery workers have taken the first steps toward a strike. Thursday, 98 percent of union members in the Central Puget Sound area voted to authorize a strike.

However, the union has not given employers the required 72 hours’ notice before walking out, said Tom Geiger, the representative of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21.

Management at Albertson’s declined to comment. Another grocery-store spokesman said the strike- authorization vote is premature because neither side has put out a best and final offer. The union represents 30,000 workers at Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC and Albertson’s.

Geiger said negotiations have not gone well and contract offers are insulting. The companies want to reduce holiday pay, hold wages at current rates and have part-time workers get health benefits through the Affordable Care Act.

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“We desire to get back to the negotiating table and have some dramatic turnabout,’’ Geiger said.

The contracts expired in early May, he said. Since then, workers have been preparing to go out on strike.

“You don’t prepare for a strike like walking into a 7-Eleven and buying a Slurpee,’’ Geiger said. Pickets and posters are prepared and organizational meetings continue, he said.

Information from The Associated

is included in this report

Nancy Bartley: or 206-464-8522