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Raleys workers reach contract deal
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WEST SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Raley's supermarket chain reached a tentative contract deal with workers, ending a nine-day strike at dozens of stores in Northern California and Nevada, officials said Tuesday.

Representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers union said picket lines would end immediately at Raley's and Nob Hill locations after more than 7,500 workers went on strike on Nov. 4.

"As one of the last large family-owned grocery chains, it will be great to have everyone back working again," Raley's president Mike Teel said in a statement.

The chain has 128 stores in the region.

Workers at a Nob Hill store in Alameda put away glossy printed picket signs in favor of handmade placards, including some that read, "We Won! Strike Over! Come Back!"

"We were persistent and we got what we wanted," Antonio Ybarra, a Nob Hill cashier, told KTVU-TV.

Full details about the agreement were not provided. However, the union said it was able to retain one of its most important benefits — a union-run health plan.

"This is an important accomplishment for our members and retirees," Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State, and Ron Lind, president of UFCW Local 5, said in a joint statement. "We were able to address Raley's competitive concerns while protecting our membership in a very challenging time."

Both sides claimed victory in the deal that came less than a week after rival Safeway Inc. signed a tentative agreement with its union that left Raley's as the only chain in the region without a labor contract.

Raley's workers will consider the deal for possible ratification in the next several weeks.

The agreement came after the grocery chain and UFCW returned to the bargaining table over the weekend in San Francisco.

The two sides had been at odds over wages and benefits, including Raley's proposal to eliminate health care benefits for retirees eligible for Medicare. Raley's officials had sought to cut costs in the face of a weak economy and competition from nonunionized companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Raley's hired more than 500 replacement workers during the impasse. Union officials said they will be dismissed immediately.

Teel said workers, customers and the company all suffered during the strike, the first in the 77-year history of the West Sacramento-based chain.

"So, it gives me great pleasure to know that as of today our employees will be back to work serving our customers with the same attention and care as we have always served our customers," he said.