Grocery store employees begin strike
by Peter Burke
Nov 08, 2012 | 3103 views | 10 10 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Elvira Nell holds a sign in front of Nob Hill Foods on Mount Hermon Road in Scotts Valley, where about a dozen employees picketed Monday, Nov. 5. The strike continued through press-time on Thursday.
Elvira Nell holds a sign in front of Nob Hill Foods on Mount Hermon Road in Scotts Valley, where about a dozen employees picketed Monday, Nov. 5. The strike continued through press-time on Thursday.
Employees of Nob Hill Foods are striking at the Scotts Valley grocery store to protest the corporation’s recent implementation of a new pay and benefits structure.

The strike began at 6 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4 and has no immediate end in sight. Nob Hill Foods is the owned by Raley’s, which is currently in a dispute with members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union regarding pay freezes and health benefits. Employees at about 90 Raley’s-owned stores in the state are striking.

More than a dozen members of UFCWU Local 5 were outside the Scotts Valley store on Monday afternoon holding signs and asking shoppers not to cross a picket line, and to shop elsewhere.

The parking lot was mostly-empty during the noon hour, although the store was open. Nob Hill has decreased its hours and is now open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

“Our clerks deal with the public two to three times per week,” said Mike Henneberry, the communications director for UFCW Local 5. “We think the customers will support them and not cross the picket line.”

The union is protesting what Henneberry called “antagonistic” treatment by Raley’s while negotiating for a new contract were on going. After 15 months of negotiating, the grocery store chain, on Sunday, Nov. 4, implemented a plan that was not been voted on by the union.

According to John Segale, who’s handling communications for Nob Hill, the company’s plan includes:

  • Freezing pay increases for two years
  • Eliminating the payment of premium wages above the current hourly wage for working on Sundays and holidays

“After 15 months of talks we couldn’t continue this any longer,” Segale said. “We needed to find a way to manage our expenses.”

Segale said Nob Hill made its last and final offer to the union one month ago, and union leaders refused to send it to a vote by union members. He said the two sides had 48 hours of mediated negotiations last weekend, but could not find common ground.

UFCW Local 5 represents other grocery chains including Safeway and Save Mart.

Save Mart recently agreed to a contract that cut back on paid vacation and the number of paid holidays. Segale said the Nob Hill plan still provides:

  • Employees with one-week paid vacation which the union’s contract with Save Mart does not provide.
  • Employees with four paid holidays which the union’s contract with Save Mart does not provide.

A major sticking point, according to Henneberry, is that the corporation’s offer would pull nearly 8,000 of its members from a jointly administered trust that health care benefits are paid from. Those 8,000 members would be moved to a company-controlled plan that has no voting members from the union.

“I am pretty sure (Raley’s/ Nob Hill) is aiming to become a non-union company,” said Henneberry. “I think they picked the wrong fight at the wrong place in Northern California.”

The union is also concerned about losing premium pay on Sundays, something Henneberry said is a practice that Whole Foods employs. However, he said Whole Foods is a non-union grocery chain.

To comment, e-mail editor Peter Burke at, call 438-2500 or post a comment at

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union scum
November 12, 2012
the unions will take down this nation all are scum
long time resident
November 11, 2012
I am so discouraged by the protestors. They have little respect for all the Businesses in King's Center. They seem to stop all the cars going into the center with just a few entries free from protestors. Even kids had to listen to the shouting, chanting, bull horns and cars honking during their art class.

I know so many people that would like a full time job. A friend had all the fulltime employees have their job eliminated. They had to reapply for a job with only one full time new position open. So, he works pay check to paycheck wondering if he will get close to thiry hours a week after working at the business for a couple years.

Just something to think about.
Gail Levey
November 11, 2012
Yesterday at the Capitola Nob Hill center, the very aggressive strikers were shouting "Shop at Safeway!". When I asked why they weren't suggesting Deluxe, New Leaf, or Whole Paycheck, the fellow said he didn't know those stores. I asked him where he was from, Modesto, he said.

All of the protesters there (and there were a lot of them) were bussed in from the CV. I don't see how this tactic can work. Strangers, not local workers, not employees of the store, being really pushy and threatening. I don't often shop there, but that made me want to cross their line.

If the union has enough money to hire out of towners to wave protest signs and influence voters with lie filled voter mailers, perhaps they have too much already.

No sympathy
November 10, 2012
Making my shopping inconvenient is not getting me to side with them. A lot of us are working with no benefits and they have some

of the best in the business. And do they also get a pension? I don't feel sorry for them at all.

"Raley's says bloated health care costs are contributing to the company's deteriorating financial condition. Struggling against

nonunion grocers, Raley's says it is losing millions of dollars a year."

Maybe they'll be happy if they drive the store completely out of business with their demands. Then where will they be with no job at all?

"Segale said the proposed package is at least as generous as the current plan, which is run by a trust fund overseen by labor and

management. Workers would continue to pay no monthly premiums, although they would be charged co-pays and deductibles."

I don't feel sorry for them at all, get back to work.

Store Supporter
November 09, 2012
If the store can't afford them in these hard times maybe they should lay them off like other companies do. Why should they be exempt from the things the rest of us have to go thru? See how much they like that. Then they can struggle to find a job like the rest of us.

Hungry Joe
November 09, 2012
Support the store. If they don't like their jobs they can quit and find another one. I haven't had a job with benefits in 5 years. They're ingrates. Don't let them intimidate you. walk right by and go shopping.
Fran the lady
November 09, 2012
That's right, if you don't have benefits, no one should! The nerve of these people wanting livable wages and effective health plans.i see no reason for anyone but upper management to have benefits, vacation time or decent wages.
Hungry Joe
November 09, 2012
Fran, I'm not saying no one should. I'm saying if you don't like your job you're always free to leave. Who are the employees to be demanding of the employer? Take it or leave it. They already have livable wages, benefits and paid vacation in a recession where a lot of people don't even have a job at all. And don't start with the class warfare crap about upper management. Upper management always gets paid more than the workers. Get real.
November 08, 2012
Henneberry was arrested yesterday for assaulting a store manager in Alameda. Guess that wasn't antagonistic?
November 09, 2012
All I have to say is, this is still a semi free country and we are able to complain and whin about anything we want, But when you start grabbing people and prevent them from going into the store that is where you cross the line. The way I see it...just having a job is a blessing, no need to attach to make a point.

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