The eight-day Raley's strike came to an end Tuesday just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. That is good news for Raley's, its workers and local consumers gearing up for the big T-day.
Union leaders with United Food and Commercial Workers say they were able to preserve the health benefits they wanted for their workers.
Raley's management says it was able to squeeze some cost savings out of the new contract. The exact details of the deal that ended the strike remain murky but may become clear in the days ahead.
Clearly the settlement will not end what is a tough economic environment for unionized grocery stores. Raley's faces strong competition from nonunion Wal-Mart. The national grocery giant has gobbled up market share at a furious clip in recent years. Other nonunion grocery stores are moving into the region as well.
The trend should be alarming not just for Raley's management but for its unionized work force, as well. The settlement that ended the strike is not likely to reduce the competitive squeeze that Raley's and other unionized grocers must confront to survive.
The union is not immune from the competitive pressures that threaten its employers. It won't be enough to hold on to benefits it has negotiated with unionized grocers such as Safeway and Raley's. To preserve well-paying jobs with benefits that can support a middle-class lifestyle, UCFW must turn its attention to the hard work of leveling the playing field economically for grocers in this region -- no easy task.
Consumers must recognize that the low prices at some grocers come with a price -- low pay and few if any benefits for employees who work there.
Still, for the upcoming Thanksgiving, the picket lines are gone at a major valley business, something for which both sides -- and the region -- should be thankful.