Workers at Raley's and Nob Hill supermarkets walked off the job Sunday morning in a strike over wages and medical benefits.
A message on the website of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 tells members they have been unable to reach an agreement with Raley's management and tells employees to set up picket lines at the stores.
It says it is "impossible to reach a settlement with a company that does not want one."
Mike Henneberry of the UFCW 5 says this is a fight they are going to win.
"This strike was provoked by mangement who came in negatively months ago with an agenda that never changed," he commented. "The agenda was to diminish the medical plan that has taken decaeds to build up and to reduce wages. These are things we depend on to keep our families healthy and happy and we need to stand up and fight. We are an important part of the community. These stores are in our neighborhoods. This is a bigger issue than just us. This is also an issue for the community and customers."
Picketing workers at the Nob Hill market in Walnut Creek were passing out fliers Sunday morning that asked shoppers to support their "neighborhood grocery workers."
The flier stated the workers have been "forced out on strike because their employer wants to destroy their family medical benefits that have taken years to build." It also stated their employer wants to reduce take home pay.
The flier listed two nearby Safeway stores and asked shoppers to go there during the strike.
Picketers at the Raley's store in Pleasanton were not able to comment other than to say they got the call at 3:00 a.m. to be out at the stores to picket at 6:00 a.m.
The union also filed unfair labor practices complaints on Thursday, including allegations that Raley's managers have been interrogating and intimidating union members, union officials said.
"We look forward to returning to the bargaining table when Raley's
management has adopted a more constructive attitude," a statement from UCFW presidents Jacques Loveall and Ron Lind said Sunday. "Our goal from the
beginning is to negotiate a fair agreement serving the needs of both Raley's
and its union employees."
Raley's officials rejected the allegations.
"We're very frustrated that it's come to this, this has been going on for 15 months," said spokesperson John Segale. "We submitted our last and final offer four weeks ago and we never heard from the union, they never let their employees vote on that."
"So we had no choice but to implement our wage package this morning," Segale said.
Segale said Raley's urgently needs to cut costs in a "fiercely competitive" market. He said the Sacramento-based chain, which includes Raley's, Nob Hill Foods and Bel Air stores, has closed five stores in the past year and seen the opening or expansion of 240 non-union stores in its markets since 2008.
The conditions imposed Sunday apply only to wages, Segale said. The store moved to freeze pay increases for two years and eliminate the premiums paid for employees working Sundays, night and holidays, but retained the one week of paid vacation and four paid holidays employees currently receive, he said.
Raley's owns 128 stores in Northern California and northern Nevada as well as 78 Raley's superstores, 22 Nob Hill markets, 20 Bel Air markets and eight Food Source warehouses.
In the East Bay, there are Raley's stores in Benicia, Fremont, Newark and Pleasanton. There are Nob Hill markets in Alameda, Livermore, Martinez, San Ramon and Walnut Creek, according to the company's website.
Bay City News Service contributed to this report