BREAKING: RALEY'S, UNION REACH TENTATIVE CONTRACT DEAL

BREAKING: RALEY'S, UNION REACH TENTATIVE CONTRACT DEAL

Michele Ellson

Management at the Raley's grocery chain and the union representing local grocery workers have reached a tentative contract accord, a spokesman for the store announced today. The company isn't offering the details of the deal until after the union's members vote on the proposed contract.

The tentative deal ends a strike that began on November 4 when workers at Raley's and Nob Hill Foods stores across Northern California - including a store here in Alameda - walked off the job over a plan to change workers' health plan and eliminate coverage for retirees. (Workers at the grocery chain's Bel Air stores did not strike, but will also receive the contract proposal.) A date to vote on the accord has not yet been set, Raley's spokesman John Segale said in a statement, though the United Food and Commercial Workers union's leadership will recommend its workers vote in favor of it, the statement said.

"(T)his contract provides us with the cost savings we need to fund our vision and the initiatives to make us more competitive in the 21st Century," Raley's president Mike Teel was quoted as saying in the release. "As one of the last large family-owned grocery chains, it will be great to have everyone back working again.”

A union spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the tentative accord, which caps 15 months of contentious negotiations. The tentative deal came a week after the union and Safeway struck a contract deal; the union and Lucky/Save Mart inked a contract deal in September.

Management at all three grocery chains had sought wage and benefit concessions from their workers, they said to help them compete with a growing number of competing non-union stores offering grocery items and rising health care costs. The union reportedly agreed to a two-year "stabilization plan" at Lucky/Save Mart that included wage concessions and, for the first time ever, employee contributions toward health care premiums; industry insiders predicted that the Safeway deal would increase pressure on Raley's to work out a contract with its workers, a claim Raley's reps denied.

Raley's management imposed a contract in early November that immediately froze wages and cut bonus pay and that was set to move employees out of their existing health care plan and cut off retirees 65 and older on January 1, 2013. The company had offered the contract to the union in October but union leaders declined to forward it to their rank and file.

Segale said the strike was the first in the Sacramento-based, family-owned grocery chain's 77-year history.

Related: The Explainer: The Raley's/Nob Hill Foods strike

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