Union: Raley's talks break down, strike called

Union: Raley's supermarkets labor talks break down, strike called

Associated Press

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Union workers at Raley's supermarkets in northern California and Nevada are going on strike after contract talks broke down early Sunday morning, the union said.

Picket lines will begin a 6 a.m. PST Sunday, said Ellen Anreder, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

The announcement came a few hours after a midnight talks deadline passed and both sides said the existing labor contract was being extended on an hour-by-hour basis at the request of the federal mediator.

But the union says in a statement released early Sunday that "by late on Saturday evening it had become obvious Raley's offer to extend the contract for an additional three days and return to the bargaining table" was a delaying tactic.

A spokesman for the supermarkets didn't immediately respond to a phone call for comment.

On Saturday the two sides held a third day of bargaining aimed at heading off the first strike in Raley's 77-year history.

The grocer has 128 stores in Northern California and Nevada.

The two sides have been at odds over a proposed wage freeze, elimination of premium pay for Sunday shifts and health care benefits.

"Raley's has tried to dictate a laundry list of takeaways including devastating members' and retirees' health and welfare plan and nothing has changed. It's clear from their actions it's time to teach them the meaning of respect," the union statement said.

Raley's management had threatened to impose a contract with its terms on Thursday, but when a federal mediator became involved in the talks, the company said it would hold off until midnight Saturday.

Raley's says it needs to cut costs in the face of a weak economy and competition from nonunionized companies that also sell groceries, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

But union officials say the chain has not agreed to a full audit of its finances, failing to make the case for the concessions

West Sacramento-based Raley's is a privately-owned company that employs 13,000 people at 115 stores in California and 13 in Nevada operating under the Raley's name, as well as Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods, Food Source and Aisle 1 Fuel Stations, according to its website.

The United Food and Commercial Workers says it represents 7,400 of the chain's employees.

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