Union employees at 128 Northern California supermarkets have decided to strike after 15 months of negotiations came to a stall early Sunday morning. The two sides met in San Francisco but the union refused to make concessions to their health care benefits. The negotiation deadline had been previously extended by a federal mediator.
Mike Henneberry of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) lamented the lack of progress in the negotiations:
“The company’s position is fairly breathtaking. They really haven’t changed much of any of their positions in the 15 months that we’ve been in talks,” Henneberry said.
After talks broke down at 2AM workers were on the picket lines by 6AM in front of the region’s Raley’s and Nob Hill supermarkets. Management, claiming they need concessions to compete with the non-union Wal-Mart Supercenters, is asking for a wage freeze and elimination of premium pay on Sundays as well as a cut in healthcare.
Raley’s employs nearly 13,000 people in California and Nevada and the UFCW represents 7,400 of them. Raley’s spokesperson John Seagle said the company has lost millions trying to compete with Wal-Mart. However, the union is unwilling to accept a suggested two-year pay freeze. According to Seagle,
“it is unfortunate that after 15 months of talks and nearly 60 negotiation sessions, we were not able to agree on a new contract since it is clearly understood that we must reduce our operating costs to become more competitive against non-union retailers.”
Management does not appear to have a real plan for how to move on. Their giant concessions will not be agreed to:
The union said in a statement 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.
Raley’s has said they will bring in replacement workers in order to stay open during the strike.