News Column

Strike Slows Business at Raley's

Nov. 6, 2012

Reed Fujii

Picket lines remained in place around area Raley's Supermarkets for the second day Monday as members of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union and others protested the company's unilateral imposition of new wages and benefits.

"You've got a lot of working families out here," said Victor Inzunza, a union member picketing the Raley's on Hammer Lane in north Stockton. "None of us wanted to go on strike, trust me. This is a last resort."

A final round of negotiations fell short Saturday after 15 months of increasingly strident talks between the union and store executives. Union officials said major sticking points included health care benefits for active employees and retirees.

However, Raley's said it does not seek to change those benefits.

"We are only implement(ing) the same wage package we have implemented throughout our company earlier this year and we are making no changes to the health and welfare package or the retiree benefits," spokesman John Segale said in an email.

That new salary package includes a freeze on wages for two years; elimination of higher premium wages for Sunday and holiday shifts; and continuance of a one-week paid vacation and four paid holidays a year.

Union officials said the strike's first day saw a strong turnout from union workers and success in directing customers to patronize other unionized grocers, such as Smart Foods (S-mart) and Safeway. A visitor to the Hammer Lane Raley's witnessed a sparsely filled parking lot at midday Monday and few shoppers, most emerging with only a bag or two of groceries.

However, Segale said Monday that nearly half of the supermarket's union workers had crossed picket lines to go to work.

"Have sales been impacted? Yes, as some customers do not want to cross a picket line," he wrote. "But it really varies from store to store and city to city. Some store directors are telling us store visits are down while others are telling us there is no drop off."

Still, at least some Raley's shoppers expressed support for the union workers.

"I understand the reasons for the strike," said Jennifer Walden after picking up a prescription from the Raley's pharmacy. She said she would do most of her shopping at other stores while the pickets remain.

"When they get it resolved, I'll come back, because this is my neighborhood store," she said.

Some Mother Lode shoppers have taken similar stands since a picket line went up Sunday at the Raley's off Highway 49 in Jackson.

"I've shopped in Raley's in Jackson since it opened," said Alan Willard, 58, of West Point. "It is really the only decent place to get organic food in this part of Calaveras and Amador counties."

Willard said he is honoring the strike and will shop instead at Save Mart or Safeway.

Catherine Lambie, 60, also of West Point, said she too will honor the strike. "It is very inconvenient for me to not go shop at Raley's. But I am not going to cross a picket line."

One way Lambie will adapt: "We still have vegetables coming out of the community garden, so we will make do with that."

Teri Hall, who lives in Jackson and works in Calaveras County, said she may have to visit the Jackson Raley's during the strike, because the Golden 1 Credit Union has its office inside.

"I wouldn't be one to cross picket lines if my bank wasn't in there," Hall said.

In San Joaquin County, besides the Hammer Lane store, Raley's also operates supermarkets in Stockton on Morada Lane; Lathrop Road in Manteca; South Tracy Boulevard in Tracy; and Lower Sacramento Road in Lodi.

Record reporter Dana Nichols contributed to this report.

Source: (c)2012 The Record (Stockton, Calif.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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