The strike began at 6 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4 and has no immediate end in sight. Nob Hill Foods is the owned by Raley’s, which is currently in a dispute with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union regarding pay freezes and health benefits. Employees at about 90 Raley’s-owned stores in the state are striking.
More than a dozen members of UFCWU Local 5 were outside the Scotts Valley store on Monday afternoon holding signs and asking shoppers not to cross a picket line, and to shop elsewhere.
The parking lot was mostly-empty during the noon hour, although the store was open. Nob Hill has decreased its hours and is now open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.
“Our clerks deal with the public two to three times per week,” said Mike Henneberry, the communications director for UFCW Local 5. “We think the customers will support them and not cross the picket line.”
The union is protesting what Henneberry called “antagonistic” treatment by Raley’s while negotiating for a new contract were on going. After 15 months of negotiating, the grocery store chain, on Sunday, Nov. 4, implemented a plan that was not been voted on by the union.
According to John Segale, who’s handling communications for Nob Hill, the company’s plan includes:
- Freezing pay increases for two years
- Eliminating the payment of premium wages above the current hourly wage for working on Sundays and holidays
“After 15 months of talks we couldn’t continue this any longer,” Segale said. “We needed to find a way to manage our expenses.”
Segale said Nob Hill made its last and final offer to the union one month ago, and union leaders refused to send it to a vote by union members. He said the two sides had 48 hours of mediated negotiations last weekend, but could not find common ground.
UFCW Local 5 represents other grocery chains including Safeway and Save Mart.
Save Mart recently agreed to a contract that cut back on paid vacation and the number of paid holidays. Segale said the Nob Hill plan still provides:
- Employees with one-week paid vacation which the union’s contract with Save Mart does not provide.
- Employees with four paid holidays which the union’s contract with Save Mart does not provide.
A major sticking point, according to Henneberry, is that the corporation’s offer would pull nearly 8,000 of its members from a jointly administered trust that health care benefits are paid from. Those 8,000 members would be moved to a company-controlled plan that has no voting members from the union.
“I am pretty sure (Raley’s/ Nob Hill) is aiming to become a non-union company,” said Henneberry. “I think they picked the wrong fight at the wrong place in Northern California.”
The union is also concerned about losing premium pay on Sundays, something Henneberry said is a practice that Whole Foods employs. However, he said Whole Foods is a non-union grocery chain.