June 7, 2012 - This week, eight out of ten Raley’s and Nob Hill members voted to authorize your Union to call a strike should a labor dispute become necessary.
We understand Union members at Raley’s stores are unaccustomed to having this kind of pressure forced on them by their employer. This is the first time in 77 years the company has treated its workers this way. Traditionally, Raley’s has avoided labor conflicts by signing early agreements with the Union.
Times have changed, unfortunately. Now you are experiencing many of the hostile tactics used by employers across the country as they try to weaken their workers’ Unions and gut their contracts.
Our decision to call for the strike vote was not taken lightly, having followed a long series of provocations by Raley’s management going back to the beginning of the current negotiations last summer.
Following is a summary of what has transpired throughout the negotiations process:
- We knew before these negotiations began they would be complex and challenging. We were aware of the status of the supermarket industry and told Raley’s we were willing to work together to find innovative solutions to the company’s competitiveness problems. This is the approach we have taken in the close relationship between our Union and Raley’s over the past 75 years.
- Unfortunately, the company chose a less productive approach. They brought in an outsider with a history of antagonizing Unions — a small-time union-buster with little or no experience bargaining contracts of this size or complexity — to call the shots for Raley’s bargaining team.
- Your Union has proposed innovative solutions to address both the company’s claims for short-term labor cost relief and the members’ long-term needs for security and dignity in the workplace, assuming the company’s claims were justified.
- Union negotiators insisted on having an independent auditor look at Raley’s books to confirm the extent of the accommodations necessary. We also suggested calling in an independent mediator to help move the negotiations forward.
- For more than six months, Raley’s refused these requests and stepped up its pressure campaign on our members, repeatedly refusing temporary extensions of the previous contract and then finally agreeing to them.
- An increased number of direct communications from management to employees appeared in the stores in an obvious attempt to drive a wedge between the workers and their Union.
- Finally, Raley’s agreed to let an independent auditor examine its books, unfortunately, after less than an hour, management announced it would not extend the contract, breaking off negotiations. The company threatened to issue its “last, best and final offer,” leaving many important financial questions unanswered.
- A few days later, Raley’s management agreed to a retroactive contract extension and to meet with a representative from the Federal Mediation Service to help facilitate negotiations.
- After a week of mediation, Raley’s abruptly announced to the press an “impasse” was in effect when, in fact, there has been no impasse. Declaring an “impasse” is a legal maneuver used by companies when they intend to impose cutbacks in wages and benefits without consulting their workers.
- Of course Raley’s could have achieved significant savings and legitimized its call for reductions at any time by imposing cuts in its non-represented stores. Raley’s chose not to. The company understands its non-Union workers are carefully watching what happens in the Union stores because it will have a critical effect on them as well. The company is doing what it can to keep the non-Union workers from joining the Union members’ efforts.
- Despite repeated claims of an urgent need for cost savings, Raley’s managed to find the resources to pay two $.50-per-hour bonuses to its non-Union workers over the last eight months. This appears to be a bribe to keep non-Union workers from joining in the Union members’ demands for fairness and equity.
- Raley’s actions left UFCW 8 with only one option: to call for a strike-authorization vote to protect the contract.
- Under the direction of its anti-worker consultant, Raley’s immediately stepped up its anti-Union propaganda in the stores. Letters and telephone messages were sent to workers asserting the Union wanted to “destroy” the company. This claim is insulting and outrageous, especially in light of the painstaking efforts Union negotiators have invested in finding productive, innovative solutions for the challenges facing these negotiations.
Our Union has an excellent reputation for designing solutions and achieving agreements with our employers.
Perhaps, in your interests and those of your co-workers, as well as the future of the company, Raley’s will abandon its attempts to weaken the Union and apply a more levelheaded, worker-empathetic and competent approach to our bargaining sessions.
Many industry observers, including academics, retail food industry analysts, Union officials and supermarket executives, have concluded Raley’s bargaining team is destroying morale, diminishing its brand and drawing the ire of organized labor. Raley's outside Union-buster is in over his head. He seems unable to avoid provoking an unnecessary labor dispute.
Unfortunately, Raley’s seems to be more interested in bullying than bargaining. By voting to support your bargaining committee with the authorization to strike, if necessary, you have sent a message: you won’t let them get away with it!
Ultimately, it’s up to Raley’s management as to whether it will stumble into a labor dispute.
Our next meeting with Raley’s and the federal mediator is set for Friday, June 8. We are approaching this meeting with our best foot forward and urge the company to do the same.
Please visit YourBreadAndButter.com for the latest developments in negotiations with your employer. Also, be on the lookout for the employer committing Unfair Labor Practices. Refer to the same website for more information on what these are and how to report them.
Always stand as strong as you have been… with your Union.
Jacques Loveall, President
UFCW 8-Golden State
Vice President, UFCW International Union
If you feel your rights have been violated in any way, contact your District Union Representative. To review some possible unfair labor practices please review the article above.