Raley's workers today began gearing up for a possible strike - the first in the West Sacramento grocer's 77-year history.
About three dozen members of the United Food and Commercial Workers gathered at the Sacramento Central Labor Council offices in Natomas to staple picket signs and plot strategy. Similar meetings were scheduled for today in Modesto and Stockton.
At the Sacramento gathering, workers said they don't seek a strike but are ready to walk out.
"We're certainly prepared," said Ronda Zanelli, a 32-year Raley's veteran who works in a store in Folsom. "No one ever wants to see a strike."
Said Brian Pickens, another Folsom employee and an 18-year company veteran: "It's looking like we're going to strike, isn't it?"
Raley's last week said it would unilaterally implement the terms of its final contract offer this Thursday - an offer that includes wage concessions. Company officials said they were fed up because UFCW leaders hadn't put the final offer to an up-and-down vote of the members.
Union leaders have said the final offer is not only inadequate, it's also "confusing and vague."
Implementing terms effectively gives the UFCW two choices - swallow the concessions or walk off the job.
The proposed concessions include a two-year wage freeze and the elimination of "premium" pay for Sunday shifts.
Raley's says it needs the savings to regain market share from low-cost, nonunion competitors. It says the final offer is more generous to the workers than the contract the UFCW signed last month with Save Mart Supermarkets.
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