OAKHURST – Striking workers at Raley’s have put down their picket signs and returned to work as a tentative agreement is reached in the 9-day long strike, the first in Raley’s 77-year history.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) have been on strike against Raley’s/Nob Hill Stores since contract negotiations broke down on Nov. 4, and more than 7,000 workers walked off the job.The strike settlement guarantees that when workers return to their jobs, there will be no reprisal for exercising their rights, according to Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State, and Ron Lind, president of UFCW Local 5. Workers will maintain their positions, seniority and health care eligibility, and all replacements workers will be immediately discharged.
One of the main points of contention was proposed changes to the medical coverage for current and retired workers, according to the UFCW. Raley’s management argued that a weak economy and competition from non-unionized stores has forced it to look for ways to cut costs.
Complete details of the agreement are not being released at this time, however, in a message to members, Loveall had this to say –
“Because of your solidarity and strength, we were able to address competitive challenges while also retaining and funding the Union health care plan for both active members and retirees.”
The agreement, which will not be made public until it is ratified by the Union members, ends 15 months of intense negotiations between the two sides.
“This is very exciting because this contract provides us with the cost savings we need to fund our vision, and the initiatives to make us more competitive in the 21st Century,” said Mike Teel, president of Raley’s Family Fine Stores.
In recent years, Teel says, there has been a huge increase of more than 240 non-union retailers either opening or expanding their stores specifically to sell groceries. This, coupled with the recession and skyrocketing health care costs, created a number of issues which both the store and the union had to work through.
“It is important to remember that everyone, including our employees, our customers, our company and the communities we serve, have suffered in this labor dispute,” said Teel. “As one of the last large family-owned grocery chains, it will be great to have everyone back working again, serving our customers with the same attention and care as we have always had at Raley’s and Nob Hill.”
Loveall and Lind thanked the UFCW International Union, national, regional and local labor organizations for their support during the lengthy negotiations and subsequent strike. They also expressed their gratitude to Federal Mediator Greg Lim.
“There is a time to fight and there is a time to unite. Now is the time for all of us to come together and get back to work serving the customers who supported our cause.”
Leaders of UFCW 8-Golden State and UFCW Local 5 said they would submit the settlement to the Unions’ members for review and recommend ratification. The proposed agreement also will be submitted to Union workers at Raley’s Bel Air chain, which had not yet been affected directly by the strike.