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Food workers fire back in Raley's contract dispute

Union accuses supermarket chain of misstating their latest proposal
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Food workers union leadership has fired back at Raley?s negotiators in an escalation of a war of words touched off by a contract negotiation stalemate. While the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 8 membership have voted to authorize a strike, neither side is making plans public for either a job action or a lockout. Auburn has two Raley?s-owned locations. Jacques Loveall, Local 8 president, said Tuesday that Raley?s officials made claims a day earlier that misstated and improperly merged two union proposals into one. Talks remained at an impasse Tuesday after a Friday session over a new agreement ended with claims by Raley?s that union demands are ?unrealistic.? ?Raley?s referred to two proposals made by our negotiating team, but merged them to give the false impression we were making unrealistic requests,? Loveall said. Raley?s officials said Monday they were stunned by an ?outrageous plan? that would increase annual operating costs by $20 million and ?an absurd demand? to give the union authority to write a new contract. Loveall said the offer was made in good faith and actually two proposals. ?Under the first proposal, union and company auditors would examine Raley?s books and work together to determine a realistic budget for labor-related expenses,? Loveall said. ?The union would use its expertise to design a package of wages and benefits that would serve the needs of both the employer and the workers.? Loveall said that that type of agreement is common in other industries, especially in the construction trades. ?And they have been useful in resolving stubborn problems in contract negotiations.? Loveall said. ?Unfortunately, Raley?s negotiators took this olive branch, broke it in half and threw it in our faces.? After Raley?s rejected that offer, the union submitted a second proposal, Loveall said. Raley?s is saying it would cost the business an extra $20 million a year. ?Raley?s may not like our second proposal but the company needs to take responsibility for its failure to provide adequate access to its financial records,? Loveall said. ?That leaves us little options but to guess at the company?s ability to pay wages and benefits.? On Monday, Raley?s spokesman John Segale said the union proposal includes more than $5.5 million in signing bonuses of $900 for full-time employees and $650 for part-time workers. Auburn?s Raley?s and Bel Air locations employ about 200 workers. ?Everyone knows we are facing tremendous pressures from non-union competitors and we must reduce our operating costs to enable us to better compete in the future,? Segale said.