WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A major Northern California supermarket chain and its workers have resumed contract talks - this time with the help of a federal mediator - as the possibility of a strike looms.
West Sacramento-based Raley's had threatened to impose a contract this week that includes a wage freeze and elimination of premium pay for Sunday shifts. But it now says it will hold off until midnight Saturday.
If a deal isn't struck by then, the workers could go on strike. It would be the first strike in Raley's 77-year history.
"We'll either be at the finish line or on the picket line," Mike Henneberry, communications director for the United Food Commercial Workers, Local 5, headquartered in San Jose, told the San Jose Mercury News (http://bit.ly/WgcKU2 ).
Local 5 and Local 8 in Roseville are leading union talks, the newspaper reported on Thursday.
John Segale, a spokesman for Raley's, told The Associated Press on Friday that talks were continuing, but he had no update.
Raley's operates about 130 stores in Northern California and Nevada, including Bel Air Markets and Nob Hill Foods. A strike could include as many as 7,000 of its roughly 13,000 employees.
Raley's says it needs to cut costs in the face of a weak economy and competition from nonunionized companies that sell groceries, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Union officials say Raley's has not agreed to a full audit of its finances, failing to make the case for the concessions.
Segale has said the company has contingency plans in case of a strike and will keep stores open.