An ongoing labor dispute between management of the Raley’s grocery store chain and employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union has resulted in a strike, affecting 90 Raley’s and Nob Hill stores.
Contract negotiations dates back 15 months, with Raley’s arguing its stores are losing money and union members unwilling to accept a pay freeze and reduction in bonus pay.
The strike officially began Sunday morning, with no end in sight. Since then, between 10 and 12 union workers have picketed the Turlock Raley’s non-stop, handing out fliers urging shoppers to take their business to other union-run stores. State Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and nine other assembly members joined the Turlock picket line briefly on Tuesday, according to workers on site, as part of a statewide bus trip to get out the vote in advance of Tuesday’s election.
The two sides differ on what exactly the proposed contract, implemented unilaterally by Raley’s as a last and final offer on Friday after union leadership declined to call for a vote on the contract, would do.
Raley’s representatives stated that the proposed contract would freeze wages for two years, and eliminate premiums for working on Sundays and holidays. The premium reduction could be renegotiated after two years.
According to Mike Teel, president & CEO of Raley’s, the offer is better than one previously accepted by UFCW-represented Save Mart employees, which also eliminates one week of paid vacation and four paid holidays.
“Our offer is not only fair, but it is what we need to preserve the future of our company,” Teel wrote in a letter to workers. “We need these savings now so all of us can compete more effectively in the future.”
In the same letter, Teel stated that a strike would “devastate the company,” leading to losses of thousands of customers, store closures, and lay-offs of hundreds of employees.
Teel also stated that Raley’s has demonstrated an economic need for the contract changes to the union, sharing a list of 40 stores which are losing between $500,000 and $2 million annually. Additionally, union auditors reviewed financial statements, forecasts, and Raley’s full books, stating that Raley’s had “demonstrated economic need,” per Teel.
Union officials responded that Raley’s has engaged in unfair labor practices, and has violated laws prohibiting harassment and intimidation of union members. They also allege that Raley’s has not bargained in good faith, and has engaged in “regressive bargaining” by submitting proposals which are worse than previous offers.
“For 15 months Raley’s has tried to dictate a laundry list of takeaways including devastating members’ and retirees’ health and welfare plan and nothing has changed,” said UFCW 8-Golden State President Jacques Loveall. “It’s clear from their actions it’s time to teach them the meaning of respect.”
Fliers being passed out by union members at Raley’s stores state that management has “forced unfair terms” on the union, “trying to take money” out of union members' pockets “without proving that it needs to do it,” and has harassed and threatened employees in attempts to break the union.
Union officials also allege that Raley’s wants to “destroy” employees’ healthcare plans; Raley’s officials say the proposal does not affect healthcare or retirement.
The Journal made repeated attempts to obtain answers from UFCW regarding these inconsistencies. UFCW officials said they were inundated with media requests, and declined to answer any specific questions, sending only boilerplate press releases.