Raley's implements wage changes, employees protest

Tiffany TuellNovember 7, 2012 

Raley's employees across the state joined forces and are on strike after the company announced that it is losing millions of dollars and needs wage concessions from employees. However, after much protesting, Raley's moved ahead with making those wage changes.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Raley's Chief Executive Michael Teel said that 40 of the company's stores are losing money, some as much as $2 million a year. Due to the company's financial situation, they were in negotiations with United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to make wage changes.

After 48 hours of negotiations, Raley's announced in a statement that they were unable to reach an agreement with the Union so Raley's has no choice but to implement the wage package contained in the last and final offer they submitted four weeks ago.

"It is unfortunate that after 15 months of talks and nearly 60 negotiation sessions, we were not able to agree on a new contract since it is clearly understood that we must reduce our operating costs to become more competitive against non-union retailers," the statement said. "Our union employees now must make the same sacrifice their non-union co-workers have already made if they want Raley's to remain in business in the years to come."

The statement said the wage changes they are now making are the same wage changes that they already implemented earlier this year throughout the company, including non-union stores.

Those changes, implemented Sunday, Nov. 4, include:

Pay increases frozen for two years;

Eliminate paying premium wages above the current hourly wage for working on Sundays and holidays;

Continuing to provide employees with one-week paid vacation, which the Union's contract with Save Mart does not provide; and

Continuing to provide employees with four paid holidays, which the Union's contract with Save Mart also does not provide.

The statement said that Raley's is not making any changes to health care benefits or retiree health benefits at this time.

Even though the Raley's store in Oakhurst is non union, its meat cutters stood behind union employees and gathered outside over the weekend to picket and tell shoppers to take their business elsewhere. Even Vons employees came over on their lunch breaks to join in the picketing over the weekend. Two meat cutters did cross the line and go back to work later on Sunday, though.

"Working people are weary of being taken advantage of and supporting Raley's workers is how they are showing it," said Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State, the union fighting for employees. "The photos coming in from around the union's jurisdiction show empty parking lots and empty stores. Throughout Northern and Central California, Raley's workers are now in front of the stores and the simple fact is Raley's customers are shopping elsewhere while the workers are on strike."

Loveall says they are hopeful their actions will be effective in bringing Raley's back to the bargaining table, but says they have additional personnel and resources to escalate the action, if needed.

"Naturally we prefer to engage in constructive dialogue rather than deepening the wounds," Loveall said. "A tragic mistake would be for Raley's management to interpret the Union's fairness for weakness."

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