Employees began their strike Sunday, Nov. 4, and officials on both sides said they don’t see a resolution coming any time soon.
“Neither side has requested a meeting to negotiate at this point,” said Raley’s spokesman John Segale on Thursday. “No one has scheduled any new talks as of today.”
Segale said negotiations broke down between Raley’s officials and members of the United Food and Commercial Workers, including the Golden State members in California, on Sunday after about 16 months.
Segale said the union was upset about a two-year pay freeze and the elimination of premium pay on Sundays and holidays. He said Raley’s never proposed changes to health care benefits for workers or retirees.
Union spokesman John Mason said outside the Tracy store Thursday that although health care benefits are not part of the present negotiations, union officials have been told they will become an issue in the future.
“We’re all out here to get a fair deal,” he said. “Hope the strike would end soon. Everybody wants to come back to their job.”
According to a statement from UFCW 8 Golden State union President Jacques Loveall, the strike is about health care.
“Our message is clear,” Loveall said in a statement on the UFCW website. “We need to protect the health care for everyone who has built this company and we will settle for nothing less.”
Among the picketers at the Tracy store Monday, Nov. 5, was the store’s natural foods manager, Tracie Culis, who said, “I’m fighting for what’s right. Fighting for employees of Raley’s future and my family’s future.”
Culis, a union member, said cuts to health benefits for retirees and workers were the reason she manned the picket line with about 10 other past and present employees. The union authorized a strike in mid-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 the union had “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 people picketing outside the Tracy store spoke openly Monday about their concerns.
“I’m out here for the retirees’ 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, who is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 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 workers wanted to strike but could not afford to take the time off. “I have nothing to lose — I live with my parents.”
Shirley Mitchum, who went 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 anyplace 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 groceries into her pickup.
”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.”
According to officials on both sides of the picket line, no negotiation meetings have been scheduled for the future.
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