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Striking Raley’s workers picket still-open Auburn store

Auburn Bel Air Market remains open and has no picket line
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Media Life columnist
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Auburn’s Raley’s store was behind picket lines Monday but remained open.

The strike, which started Sunday, followed a stalemate in contract talks that extended over the summer and into the fall as Raley’s and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 8 failed to reach agreement on a new pact. Raley’s stores are being picketed throughout the region.

Both sides were blaming the other for the breakdown in talks and what is being described by Raley’s as the first strike in its 77-year history.

UFCW presidents Jacques Loveall and Ron Lind said in a joint statement that progress in negotiations was “stymied” by lack of good faith on the part of Raley’s negotiators.

“We look forward to returning to the bargaining table when Raley’s management has adopted a more constructive attitude,” the two stated. “Our goal from the beginning is to negotiate a fair agreement serving the needs of both Raley’s and its union employees.”

John Segale, spokesman for Raley’s, said the biggest issue has been attempting to get the union to have members vote on their latest contract offer.

“We provided our last and final offer four weeks ago and the union refused to let its membership vote,” Segale said. “We believe that if it went to a vote, they would vote for it. And if, by chance, they did not, we would have to go back to the table and come up with a different offer.”

With about half of Raley’s unionized employees crossing picket lines to go to work over the past two days, Segale said that the store is continuing to do its best to serve customers.

“We plan to keep products arriving at stores and stocking shelves,” Segale said. “Customers will be seeing employees they know.”

The Auburn Raley’s had pickets up at the entrance on East Lincoln Way, near the Foresthill Road intersection. About seven more were stationed Monday at the two front entrance doors while another group of four stood vigil at the back entrance.

Auburn’s Teresa Thomy said she wouldn’t be crossing the line, noting that family members have worked in the grocery business for more than 40 years.

“I think Raley’s is trying to break the union,” Thomy said. “The union is just asking for its medical to be left alone.”

While Raley’s was behind picket lines, Bel Air Market on Highway 49 – also owned by Raley’s – was not being picketed. Segale said that the store was not part of a strike vote in June by the union, which covered Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods stores.

Raley’s employs 13,000 and has 128 stores in Northern California and Northern Nevada. The two Raley’s-owned stores in Auburn have 200 employees. A breakdown of how many employees are at each store and how many employees at the Auburn Raley’s were out on strike was not available Monday.

Clipper Gap’s Elsa Rawlings crossed the picket line to shop at Raley’s Monday afternoon.

“I understand they’re striking for their benefits and health insurance,” Rawlings said. “The way things are going with insurance, it’s so expensive. If I was working over here, I would be happy to have a job.”