Reporting Ron Jones
WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – For Raley’s workers, it’s back to the bargaining table after a week of walking the picket lines.
It couldn’t come at a more critical time with the busy holiday food shopping season upon us.
Both sides are hopeful but emphasize there are no guarantees.
A week after Raley’s and Nob Hill supermarket employees went on strike; the two sides are back at the table. Picket lines remain up, but so do hopes.
“It’s good news because I want my job back,” Raley’s courtesy clerk Conner Casey said. “I miss it.”
Both sides have agreed not to discuss negotiations openly. However, on the United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW) website, it states “…while this is a positive development, it is no time to let down our guard.”
“Spirits are up. We don’t know what’s really going on at the bargaining table, but the workers are committed to staying out here till we have a contract,” said Maggie Feder, UCFW representative.
Raley’s, which also owns Nob Hill Foods, says its union stores can’t compete with a rising tide of nonunion competitors.
The company’s proposal calls for a wage freeze, which would keep courtesy clerks at $9.20 an hour, senior clerks at $21.31 an hour, and the elimination of Sunday and holiday premium pay.
“It is welcome news, that at least they’re talking right now,” said Susan McCune, a Nob Hill employee for 24 years. “It is scary; we’re hoping it will get resolved soon, because the holidays are coming.”
The company is calling its benefits package one of the best in the industry. It includes pension and life insurance, dental and vision coverage, a 401(k) retirement plan, and, the big sticking point, elimination of health plan benefits for retirees who qualify for Medicare.
“That’s the biggest thing. Keep our retirement benefits; leave it alone,” said McCune.
So what brought the sides back to the bargaining table? The holiday shopping season may be one reason.
“This time of the year is the worse time of the year. We don’t want to do this to our customers; we don’t want to lose customers to competition,” said Nob Hill Foods employee Kenny Collins.
Competitor Safeway stores reached a tentative agreement with the same union last Thursday.
“I would think it puts pressure on Raley’s as Lucky, SafeMart already has a contract; and Safeway already has a contract.”
Talks ended Sunday night, but will resume Monday morning.