Raley's and its union are making one final try today to head off a strike, as a third day of contract negotiations gets underway.
The two sides, meeting in San Francisco, bargained late into the night Friday and resumed negotiations at around 9:30 a.m. today.
Raley's has set a deadline of midnight tonight for reaching agreement. Otherwise, it has threatened to unilaterally impose wage concessions and other terms of its "last and final" contract offer. That would almost surely trigger a strike by members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
A strike, the first in the company's 77-year history, could begin early Sunday. It would immediately affect the Raley's and Nob Hill stores; workers at the company's 20 Bel Air stores haven't yet taken a strike-authorization vote.
Raley's has been pressing for concessions for more than a year, saying it needs the savings to compete with nonunion grocers. Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW Local 8 in Roseville, said this week he thinks the two sides are fairly close to agreement on wages. But they remain far apart on health care issues, particularly the company's proposal to eliminate coverage for Medicare-eligible retirees.
Both sides continued to gear up for a possible strike. UFCW Local 5, in San Jose, told workers that they'd receive "no less than $200 a week" from the union's strike fund if they walked out. Raley's officials, in memos to employees, urged them not to walk and warned them they would temporarily lose their jobs to replacement workers.
The company has said it will keep as many stores open as possible in a walkout.
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