Raley’s workers back on the job after 10-day strike

After 15 months of negotiations the United Food and Commercial Workers called "highly contentious," and a ten-day strike, over 7,000 workers at northern California Raley's and Nob Hill supermarkets returned to their jobs this week, tentative agreement in hand.

UFCW Locals 5 and 8 were submitting the settlement to their members for review, and recommending ratification.

Details were not available pending the ratification vote, but the UFCW said the settlement "provides for family and retiree medical and livable wages" - a principal issue in the strike. The union also said the pact stipulates that Raleys will not retaliate against the strikers, who will keep their positions, seniority and health care eligibility, and that all replacement workers would be terminated immediately.

"This is an important accomplishment for our members and retirees," Local 5 president Ron Lind and Local 8 president Jacques Loveall said in a statement.  "Because of the resolve and solidarity exhibited by our members and allies in the labor movement, along with the extraordinary support of our customers, we were able to address Raley's competitive concerns while protecting our membership in a very challenging time.

"Now is the time for all of us to come together and get back to work serving the customers who supported our cause."

Contending the cuts were forced by competition from nonunion stores, Raley's had sought to slash health benefits for both workers and retirees, freeze wages for two years, and eliminate premium pay for Sundays and holidays. The workers struck when the supermarket tried to impose the takeaways.

The two local presidents expressed appreciation for the labor movement's support, and specially thanked the unions that stood with the UFCW in the Raley's Solidarity Alliance of Unions during the talks - UFCW Local 711 in Nevada; Northern California Teamsters; Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 85; and IUOE Stationary Engineers Local 39.

Among those walking picket lines with the Raley's strikers was state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who last week joined pickets at a store in Sacramento, the state capital, occasioning complaints from the head of the city's Chamber of Commerce.

Steinberg told the Sacramento Bee's editorial board this week that protecting workers is one of his core principles, and that he is looking out for business, too.

Earlier this month, UFCW Locals 5, 8 and 648 reached a tentative agreement with northern and central California Safeway and Vons supermarkets. The union said Safeway agreed to keep and fund the union's health benefit plan. The settlement also followed 15 months of bargaining, and covers 22,000 workers at 320 stores.

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