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Union prepares for possible strike against West Sacramento-based Raley's supermarket chain

Sacramento Bee, May 1, 2012

 By Dale Kasler

Raley's unionized workforce today began preparing for a possible strike against the West Sacramento supermarket chain.

The United Food and Commercial Workers announced early today that Raley's refused to extend its contracts and was preparing to give workers its "last, best and final offer."

The presidents of UFCW Locals 8 and 5, representing thousands of workers in greater Sacramento and across Northern California, said they would schedule meetings with membership to decide whether to authorize a strike.

It would be the first strike in Raley's history.

It is regrettable, after months and months of seeking concessions, Raley's is unable to justify its claims and requests for cutbacks," the two presidents said in a joint statement. "This reckless game of chicken may very well lead to a labor dispute."

Raley's confirmed that it's going to submit a final offer to the UFCW, citing "seven months of long and frustrating negotiations."

If the union rejects the offer, experts say Raley's has the option of simply imposing the terms of the final contract offer. That would likely trigger a strike.

Raley's, though, said it doubts it will come to that.

"We do not expect the employees to vote for a strike because our employees do not want to go on strike, as they understand that their future and our company's future depends upon Raley's becoming more efficient so we can better compete," said company spokesman John

Segale. He said the company plans to keep the stores open if there is a work stoppage, but he wouldn't say how.

Ken Jacobs, a labor expert at UC Berkeley, said Raley's is trying "gain leverage" over the union but is risking a costly strike.

"They're definitely pushing it very close," he said.

Robert Reynolds, a supermarket industry consultant in Moraga, said consumers have plenty of choices and would desert Raley's.

"They're going to find alternatives," he said.

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