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Raley's, in an effort to head off a strike vote, is warning its union workers about actions it will take – including store closures -- if they walk out.
According to the Sacramento Bee, West Sacramento, Calif.-based Raley’s CEO Michael Teel said the grocery chain plans to hire replacement workers to keep stores open in the event of a strike, but even with replacements expects to close select underperforming store locations for good.
The grocer already announced four store shutdowns this year, saying it needs labor concessions to become more competitive with nonunion rivals such as Wal-Mart.
Members of UFCW Local 8, based in Roseville and covering much of the Central Valley, are scheduled to hold strike-authorization meetings starting today, however, it said that Raley’s Bel-Air subsidiary won't vote because their contract doesn't expire until June 30.
Local 5, based in San Jose, has already authorized a strike against Raley's.
Even if the employees vote to strike and the contracts run out, a walkout wouldn't take place immediately, if ever, said published reports. But while negotiations could resume, a strike would be much closer.
According to a post on the Local 8 website: “Despite being in mediation and having additional dates already set to bargain, Raley’s declared an impasse in negotiations late Friday, May 25th. Although this is an inaccurate description of the talks, it is an indication of their intent to force takeaways to your benefits and wages, without even allowing you to vote on your own contract.”
According to the union, Raley's wants to eliminate bonus pay for Sunday and holiday work. Existing employees would continue getting bonus pay for working nights, but newly hired workers would lose that benefit.
Published reports said that Raley’s wants relief on health care costs and has proposed that employees start contributing toward premiums. The average employee would pay $15 a week, according to Teel's memo. The company also wants to eliminate health care for retirees who are covered by Medicare; it has already done so for its nonunion retirees.
One sticking point in the negotiations is the union's desire to organize about two dozen nonunion stores owned by Raley's, according to Teel's memo. According to the Sacramento Bee, while the UFCW wants Raley's to stay "neutral" on organizing efforts, the grocer is refusing and has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.