“I’m fighting for what’s right — fighting for employees of Raley’s future and my family’s future,” said Tracy store Natural Foods Mgr. Tracie Culis, as she stood on the picket line Monday morning.
According to Raley’s spokesman John Segale, negotiations broke down between Raley’s officials and members of the United Food and Commercial Workers at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, after approximately 16 months of negotiations.
Segale said the union was upset over a two-year pay freeze, and the elimination of premium pay on Sunday’s and holidays. He said Raley’s never proposed changes to the employee or retirees’ health care benefits.
A union representative outside of Raley’s declined to comment for this story. He referred all questions to
A man who identified himself as John, who was coordinating the strikers outside the Tracy store, refused to be quoted for the story. He referred all questions to the Roseville office of the UFCW Local 5, where officials had not responded to interview requests as of Monday at 4:30 p.m.
Culis, a union member, said cuts to health benefits for retirees and current employees is why she manned the picket line with about 10 other past and present employees who were rotating picketing in front of the store. The union authorized a strike in May but waited until negotiations failed before walking out.
“We’re willing to take the two-year pay freeze, but not the cut of the retirees’ benefits,” she said. “We’re not willing to budge on this one. We don’t want to risk our futures and the retirees’ futures. I love this company, but I have to stand up for what I believe in.”
Segale said that the union has “misinformed” its members about the talks.
“Unfortunately the employees never had the chance to vote on this (contract),” he said. “We believe if they did, they would vote for it. They voted on a strike authorization, never voted on a contract.”
Other picketing employees outside the Tracy store spoke openly on Monday about their concerns.
“I’m out here for the retiree’s medical, they want to take it away,” said deli clerk Brenda Gale. “We want a quick resolution; decide what’s fair and reasonable.”
Wearing her Raley’s uniform shirt on the picket line, Chelsea Oswald, a courtesy clerk, said her father, a member of the Teamsters union, told her to go out and “fight for the union.”
“I’m doing this for everyone who wants to do it, but can’t do it,” she said, noting that some employees want to strike, but they can’t afford to take the time off to man the picket line. “I have nothing to lose, I live with my parents.”
Shirley Mitchum, who came to Raley’s to get a flu shot, said she showed her support for the striking employees by refusing to cross the picket line.
“I’m a loyal shopper for 23 years and I don’t shop any place else,” she said. “I want to support them. I’ve been on strike before and I’m not going to cross it.”
Another customer, Kathleen Russo, said she had no problem shopping at Raley’s as she put her groceries into her pickup truck
”It doesn’t matter to me,” she said. “I think prices are high enough. I understand what they are doing, but all it’s going to do is raise prices and the economy can’t take it.”
With neither side looking to continue negotiations, strikers could not say how long they plan to man the picket line, but they did estimate their strength to grow significantly in the coming days.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or email@example.com.