Nob Hill

Nob Hill workers keep picketing as talks resume

No sign yet of resolution
2012-11-12T18:18:00Z 2012-11-13T17:50:11Z Nob Hill workers keep picketing as talks resumeCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
November 12, 2012 6:18 pm  • 

One week after its employees went on strike, Raley’s invited union negotiators back to the bargaining table to resume talks.

Meanwhile, about two dozen store employees and supporters walked the picket line at Napa’s Nob Hill Foods on Monday, their signs still protected in the plastic that was wrapped around them last week to keep them dry in the rain.

“We’re not backing down,” said Jennifer Martinez, who has worked in the store’s bakery for 11 years.

Most Nob Hill employees, along with fewer than 10 butchers at the Napa Raley’s, went on strike Nov. 4, joining about 8,000 workers at roughly 90 other locations in Northern California. The strike, which followed 15 months of unfruitful negotiations, is the first in the history of the West Sacramento–based Raley’s, which owns Nob Hill Foods.

The striking employees, who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, passed out information to shoppers Monday saying Raley’s is trying to destroy their health care, force unfair terms without employee input, and harass and threaten workers, among other claims.

One flier had a photo of a large yacht, which employees said belongs to Raley’s President and CEO Mike Teel.

“If he sold that, he could pay all of us,” said Barbara Purtell, who has worked at Nob Hill for 23 years and has walked the picket every day the past week except one, when she needed to baby-sit her granddaughter. She carried a photo of the baby to keep her spirits up, she said.

Over the weekend, Raley’s offered free groceries and coupons to shoppers who spent at least $20 in one of its stores.

Purtell said she saw a few more customers cross the picket line over the weekend, possibly to get the free items. But most regular customers are going elsewhere, she said.

When someone she recognizes does enter Nob Hill, it makes her want to quit, Purtell said.

“I’m getting to the point where I don’t even want to go back — I feel like retiring,” she said. “When you see the customers go by and the co-workers go in, I think it’s going to be too difficult to go back.”

Customers have brought the picketers food, one even handing over groceries she received free from another store. Checker Arely Soriano said that kind of support is encouraging, but she too is discouraged by those who continue to shop at Nob Hill.

“It’s like our family. It’s really painful for us to receive that kind of response,” Soriano said. “When we see our loyal customers say, ‘We are with you guys, hang in there,’ it’s a motivation for us. We’re fighting for our rights.”

In addition to bringing home-baked treats, some shoppers have picked up signs and joined the picket line.

“I used to work for retail clerks and I believe in what they stand for,” said Gary Kranz, a retired Safeway employee who has shopped at Nob Hill for decades, but not in the past week. He picketed on Monday with store employees.

“It’s a big corporation and they’re saying, ‘We’re losing money,’ but they’re taking away their retirement and health benefits and making (employees) pay more for the benefits,” Kranz said.

Union members who strike are supposed to receive pay from the union but had not received checks as of Monday, Purtell said. She would not say how much pay they receive, but said it is much less than their normal hourly wages.

Striking employees will miss their first paycheck Friday, she said. All said they will take a hit, especially going into the holidays.

Soriano and her husband Mauricio, a produce manager, are both on strike.

“For both of us to be out here is hard,” Arely said. “It’s two incomes we’re losing. We have six children, so it’s a big impact for us.”

Mauricio said he hopes a deal will be reached in the coming days so customers will return in full force to do their Thanksgiving shopping.

In a brief statement issued Monday, Raley’s said both parties had returned to the bargaining table.

“Negotiations have resumed this weekend between the two parties in an effort to reach a contract agreement,” Raley’s spokesman John Segale wrote in an email. “Both parties have agreed to not discuss the progress of these talks while the current negotiations are ongoing. We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair and equitable to both parties.”

Jacques Loveall, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 8, encouraged workers in an online message to continue walking the picket line until an agreement is reached.

“It is abundantly clear to us Raley’s desire to return to the bargain table has been driven by the success of our picket lines and consumer support for our members,” Loveall wrote. “While we are hopeful this turn of events will lead to a settlement, this is not the time to diminish our efforts.

“Raley’s negotiators are getting regular reports from the stores and their willingness to reach agreement is tied to your ongoing solidarity and action and the continued silence of their cash registers.”

The company wants a pay freeze for all employees for two years with a wage and health and welfare reopener after two years, according to information provided by Segale. Raley’s also wants to eliminate premium pay on Sundays and holidays, maintaining double time pay for those working holidays.

Under the company’s proposed terms, employees hired after the first of the year would receive fewer paid holidays and less vacation time than those currently employed, according to Raley’s.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. LDBDS
    Report Abuse
    LDBDS - November 12, 2012 6:36 pm
    Fire every picketing employee and start over, unions are outdated
  2. conh
    Report Abuse
    conh - November 12, 2012 7:48 pm
    We really enjoyed shopping at Nob Hill, Napa. Convenience, attitude of store personnel and price are important to us. Unfortunately, the union does not understand the current and future economic picture of Napa , California and the US. The unemployment rate for California is in excess of 10%. Medical costs will continue to climb and companies are unable to subsidize this cost for its employees.
    There are other increasing costs such as regulations and taxes.
    Union members need to comprise or else they will lose their job and livelihood and join the many millions who live on entitlements from the federal and state governments.
  3. Reason
    Report Abuse
    Reason - November 12, 2012 9:32 pm
    I am 100% behind the hard-working and friendly workers at Nob Hill and the butchers at Raley's on Soscol (where I normally shop). I, for one, like going to a friendly neighborhood grocery store with courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable employees and I am happy to pay for their expert help and care.

    If all someone cares about is cheap prices they should go Walmart or Target to do their shopping. See if you can get anyone who knows anything to help you there.

    I will not shop at ANY Raley's, Bel Aire, or Nob Hill food store until these workers get the respect they deserve. Thanksgiving is coming quickly, Mr. Teel.
  4. napa1957
    Report Abuse
    napa1957 - November 12, 2012 10:45 pm
    I was not surprised to see the union member mention that the promised "pay while on strike" has not materialized. This happened to me decades ago and we had to go on food stamps. I had previously worked through one strike to keep food on the table, but vowed never to do so again because of the way I was treated and abused, both verbally and physically by my co-workers who were on strike. We were on strike for 8 weeks and no one saw a penny. Unions can, however, manage to come up with hundreds of thousands of your dues money to "elect" a candidate that will follow their line of thinking. I feel bad for the employees, but they aren't alone is not having raises or having to pay more for their insurances, or having fewer paid holidays. My employer has already gone this route, but out business is thriving and we hope to add back some of those perks soon,
  5. glenroy
    Report Abuse
    glenroy - November 13, 2012 7:33 am
    Apparently the hang up is retirement healthcare benefits the employees are willing to pay but wish to stay under the company plan….they aren’t as cozy towards obamacare....well neither are most of the rest of us.

    Makes perfect sense, the union supports and supported obamacare and their members don’t and it’s Raley’s fault…they should strike the union.
  6. Dr_Faustus
    Report Abuse
    Dr_Faustus - November 13, 2012 11:17 am
    While unions are not perfect, they have a solid history of producing higher pay and benefits than non-union jobs.

    As of 2012, approximately 14% of employment in the US is unionized - the largest share of the number I believe is comprised of public-sector unions.

    In the era of the 50's - the era most conservatives hold such a longing to return - had the largest percentage of unionized workers; it also happened to be one of the most prosperous times in our nation's history.

    As a former member of MMP, I can attest to the standard of living unionization helped afford me and my family. What the pay and benefits of the union gave to me wasn't high luxury and easy living, it was the financial peace of mind. I didn't live paycheck-to-paycheck, was able to afford unexpected expenses, and still have enough to save. I saw a doctor when I needed to and enjoyed a little guilt-free consumerism. Basically, the union provided me a reasonable middle-class lifestyle.

    It's a shame they have died
  7. reason-ator
    Report Abuse
    reason-ator - November 13, 2012 12:18 pm
    How odd. I thought the strike was over. Everybody else is saying it is, including the employees.

    Oh, well, I guess you get what you pay for....

    Could you imagine PAYING for up-to-date and correct news like this ?
  8. napa333
    Report Abuse
    napa333 - November 13, 2012 12:25 pm
    Congrats to the union on their win. If you side with big business and corporations than you are for low wages and no benefits. That is why so many of them have outsourced jobs, to cheat our people out of livable wages and benefits. I for one would perfer not to live in a country that allows corporations to put profits ahead of their workers.Dr_Faustis, the right,living in the alternate world they occupy will have a completely differant version of your post. None of it will be based on reality . Bush gave the wealthy and corporations huge tax breaks because they are the job creators, this has failed miserably, but the right keeps pushing this agenda. In case any of you on the right out there have'nt noticed, we had an election and the Majority of the American people have seen thru the bs that these policies have been.GO UNIONS!!
  9. napablogger
    Report Abuse
    napablogger - November 13, 2012 1:04 pm
    It seems like we go back and forth through history. When big business got too much control, unions rose up and changed things for the better. Then the unions got too much power and things went out of balance the other way. Now things have swung back again to where big business has managed to strip away the unions power and the middle class is suffering once again. We need balance.
  10. Plokij
    Report Abuse
    Plokij - November 13, 2012 1:10 pm
    “If he sold that, he could pay all of us,” said Barbara Purtell. That's what's wrong with the whole situation.
  11. JMG
    Report Abuse
    JMG - November 13, 2012 1:44 pm
    They make $150 a week on strike and their complaining yet they are spoiled with what they have and still will have after the strike when I know a friend of mine worked temporary till the strike was over saying they would work for minimum wage and no benefits common do you need to have a college degree to work there? Many people should be happy they have a job in this day and age.
  12. glenroy
    Report Abuse
    glenroy - November 15, 2012 11:28 am
    Amen blogger...on that we agree 100%!

    Without balance we end up losing good paying jobs and a state economy in ruin....both of which we have now.
  13. libra10460
    Report Abuse
    libra10460 - November 16, 2012 7:47 am
    I think these workers should be happy they even have a job and the benefits they have!! There are many people out there who are unemployed and would be greatful to have their wages and benefits. Stop whinning!! I will happily continue to walk across your picket lines. We own a small business and just had to lay all but 2 of our employees off. Employees have no idea what medical benefits costs employers, it's terrible. They need to take a look at what happened to the Hostess employees that went on strike.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick