About 30 employees hoisted picket signs and gathered peacefully outside each of the South Shore Raley's stores on Monday as part of a regional strike that started on Sunday after contract negotiations between the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Sacramento-based grocery outlet failed.
The strike, the first in Raley's 77-year history, came after talks broke down around a proposed wage freeze, elimination of premium pay for Sunday shifts and health care benefits. After the discussions fell through, about 7,000 employees walked out of more than 120 stores in California and Nevada.
In a neon pink hat and a blue sweatshirt, Strike Leader Luke Adams stood outside the Raley's near Stateline with a UFCW sign in his hand. He's worked for the company for the last 12 years on the South Shore, but he said he had no qualms when it came to joining the picket line.
"The benefits we have are going into corporate hands, and we've got to keep them. I'll be out here as long as it takes. There's no fear involved," Adams said.
Adams, who earned $21 per hour as the store's head meat cutter, said he's willing to take a severe pay cut - the union will pay him $100 dollars for the first week of the strike - to fight for what many of the strikers said on Monday was their main concern: health care benefits for retirees.
For 25-year Raley's employee Al Foxworthy, the health care issue also sits at the center of the debate.
"I just want to keep what I have. I want to keep my medical benefits when I retire. I have been a company man all those years. I like Raley's and would love to get back to work," Foxworthy said.
According to a statement that Raley's spokesman John Segale gave to the Associated Press, the store needs to cut costs during harsh economic times and face nonunionized competition.
"We are under some fierce competition and we must reduce our costs to allow us to compete in the future," Segale told the Associated Press.
Both of the Raley's stores in South Lake Tahoe are still open.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report. Look for more to this story as it develops at www.tahoedailytribune.com.