Nob Hill Labor Strike Still in Full Swing

The union strikes a deal with Safeway, which increases pressure on Raley's management


Unionized Nob Hill Foods workers held their sixth day of picketing Friday, after over a year's worth of negotiations over healthcare and wages failed with the management of Nob Hill Foods and its parent company Raley's.

However, United Food and Commercial Workers, which organizes labor for both Safeway and Raley's made an agreement Thursday with Safeway management to protect benefits for its workers.

Picketers said the agreement was proof that Raley's plan for a two-year freeze on pay increases and elimination of retiree health benefits for those over 65 and eligible for Medicare are unjust.

"Our company is saying they have the best offer in the industry, which is a misnomer based on what the Safeway employees are going to have," said Steven Bennet, 55, picket line organizer for the Capitola Nob Hill Foods. Bennet has worked at Nob Hill Foods for 35 years.

In an open letter to its customers, Raley's president and CEO Mike Teel said that the cuts to union benefits were necessary to compete with other non-union grocery stores.

“We are not seeking any reductions to the industry-leading hourly wages we pay our employees, but we are freezing all increases for two years,” wrote Teel.

“And, while we continue to provide medical coverage to retirees up to the age of 65 years old, we can no longer afford to provide health and welfare coverage to retirees once they qualify for Medicare.”

Negotiations remain dead in the water, according to Bennet.

“The company is refusing to bargain with us,” he said.

“This is the final straw for me. I can no longer continually concede to Raley's demands. In my opinion this is corporate greed. They plead poverty, but they just put $2 million into a remodel in Scotts Valley.”

Bennet said he only wants what was promised him.

“We are not asking for more. We are asking to hang on to what we have given up,” he said. “I gave up wages in the past so that I could have medical in the future. Now they want to take my future away.”

Phil November 10, 2012 at 03:36 PM
They seem to not see how Raleys has to compete with other chains who don't have bloated union costs. The times have changed. People have choices now. Unions can not bully businesses as they have in the past.
Karen November 10, 2012 at 03:52 PM
People are lucky to have a job - be careful! Many unemployed in our area and they would love to have your jobs.
Sheila Smith November 10, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Once Obama Care is in place, all the medical coverage is going to change. I spoke to reps at Nob Hill and some that were still working. They currently pay 0 for their coverage and the company wants them to contribute from $16 pr week to $24 pr week for a family for their coverage. I am currently payin over $1300 per month for coverage as a self employed person and normally never shop at Nob Hill because it is too expensive. I am very insulted and offended by the presence of these picketers on the street. The unions are supposed to help people who were being taken advantage of, this is an offense to the entire concept. With unemployment at over 15% ( if you count those who have 'stopped looking for work' translation, working under the table because they can't get on a payroll anywhere... unless they've stopped eating and watching cable, they're working somplace ) it is disgraceful for the Nob Hill workers to refuse to contribute to their health care costs. If they are so concerned about retirees, why don't they offer to pay a higher amount each per week to take care of people so they can have double health care, medicare AND private health care when they retire ....
John November 10, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Just imagine waking up tomorrow, Nob Hill stores closed, and you not having a job at all. I have little sympathy for you strikers. I wish the article disclosed more details about the contract proposed by NH, but I am sure I would take it in a heart beat. I am an engineer and former contractor who can't seem to get a job at any price let alone one with good benefits!
WORKER'S RIGHTS NOW November 11, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Unions are the last ragged hope for the "little" guys up against corporate greed. It is very hard for low wage workers to survive in this area with the cost of living so high. Low wage service workers deserve access to health care and cost of living raises. In 1973 I went from fifty cents an hour/12 hour days/no benefits to a living wage a bit above minimum wage with health insurance and two weeks vacation a year because of a labor union job and federal equal opportunity laws. Without this protection we'd all be struggling a lot more. Corporations have made more and more inroads against labor unions through good and bad economic times since 1973. I have not had any union protection since 1990. In recent years, with NO union, my pay did not increase one cent over eight years, I had no benefits, no vacations, no overtime pay. And now, I have no job at all. VIVA LA UNIONS. Honk your horns in support. Only in solidarity is there hope for us all. Thanks for listening to my rant. A.


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