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Raley's stores won?t see strike, for now

Union moving forward with strike authorization votes
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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If Raley?s and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union can?t agree on a contract with the help of a federal mediator this month, then a strike is likely to take place eventually, according to union officials. Raley?s management says the supermarket chain needs to reduce the cost of the benefits it offers to remain competitive in the current market, but the company is not seeking any reductions in regular hour pay or in the pension plan. Union officials say the health benefits of retirees are at stake, and while they hope an agreement is reached in mediation, they are moving forward with a strike authorization vote if one isn?t. Some Auburn residents say if the strike does take place they won?t shop at Raley?s, while others say a strike wouldn?t impact whether or not they shop there. The last contract agreement between Raley?s and the union was reached in 2007 and has been extended several times since October. The most recent extension lasts until June 6 and guarantees union employees will continue to receive their wages and benefits as they currently exist, according to John Segale, spokesperson for Raley?s. The parties are scheduled to meet with a federal mediator May 18, 23 and 25. ?Since the last contract was agreed to in 2007, there have been more than 200 non-union retail outlets which have expanded to sell groceries or opened new stores to sell groceries in our Northern California and Northern Nevada region,? Segale said. ?As soon as those non-union competitors open their doors for business, we are at a disadvantage because they have much lower operating costs than our stores.? For now, Segale said customers shouldn?t experience any change or impact at stores. Mike Henneberry, communications director for UFCW Local 5, said they have been unsatisfied with Raley?s? proposals to eliminate healthcare benefits for union retirees and increase employee contributions to healthcare. Currently, Raley?s workers in the union do not pay any medical costs out of their wages, but do pay co-pays and deductibles on the backend, he said. ?Bottom line for us is we need an agreement that continues to create and maintain quality jobs and that provide good benefits. That goes for retirees also,? Henneberry said. ?People never went into this industry thinking they were going to get rich, but the tradeoff was you were going to have a pension and medical benefits in retirement.? Segale said the supermarket chain is seeking reductions in the benefits of its union workers that it?s employees in non-union stores and the corporate office have taken or will soon take. Henneberry said the union has faith in the bargaining process, but in his disrict is collecting the authorization votes just in case an agreement can?t be reached. Laura Ramirez, of Applegate, said she is a retired Raley?s employee and her husband currently works at a location in Roseville. She said her pension and medical benefits are excellent and she wouldn?t have worked in the industry if those weren?t offered. ?Oh yes it would,? Ramirez said when asked if a strike would impact if she shopped there. ?I wouldn?t shop here or any store that?s union.? Vera Rooze, of Applegate, said she felt differently. ?If they are here, I will (continue to shop here),? Rooze said. ?It depends on where I come from.? Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.