WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A strike against Raley's would be "pretty devastating," Michael Teel, the chain's president and chief executive officer, told SN Tuesday, but he said the chain is "strong enough and agile enough" to weather it.
He said Raley's is "fully prepared" for a strike, including the possibility of closing an unspecified number of stores "if we have to."
While Teel said he hopes a strike can be avoided, he said he's not sure how the situation will resolve itself.
While the United Food and Commercial Workers Union reported that 80% of Raley's employees had voted to authorize a strike, Teel said that figure is misleading "because it includes the separate vote by employees at Nob Hill [a Raley's subsidiary] a few weeks earlier. The vote among our employees was actually 30% against authorizing a strike, and that was with only about 50% of employees voting."
Raley's agreement with the UFCW — along with agreements by Safeway and Save Mart — expired last October. A federal mediator sat in on Raley's negotiations for two weeks, "but that had no impact because it didn't produce any progress," Tel said.
A union spokeswoman said William McDonough, director of bargaining for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, met with Raley's, the federal mediator and the union Friday to inform them the international union would sanction a strike against Raley's if one becomes necessary.
The union gave Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., a “last, best and final” offer, which it said the chain is reviewing.
According to a union official, talks are continuing between Safeway and UFCW Locals 5, 8 and 648. “These negotiations are difficult and complex, but they are civil and are progressing slowly,” he said.
All three chains are extending their contracts on a day-to-day basis, with either party able to cancel with 72 hours’ advance notice.