History took place in November and a good chunk of it took place right here in Alameda.
The San Francisco Giants had just taken the World Series in a four-game sweep, a series many thought, if it happened at all, would go to at least five or six games. President Obama was re-elected to a second term, and on that momentum the California Legislature saw its highest percentage of Democratic office holders put in place since the 1800s. Proposition 32, an anti-worker sham, went down in flames.
The Alameda City Council, in a historic first, is comprised mostly of women. Alameda's own Rob Bonta was elected to the Assembly, making him California's first Filipino Assembly member, a very historic first. And, in another milestone, Alameda saw its first labor dispute in the grocery industry since 1995.
Your neighborhood grocery workers at Raley's-Nob Hill were forced to strike after 15 months of fruitless negotiations with their employer. Raley's-Nob Hill entered negotiations in fall 2011 with a new negotiator and new head of labor relations well versed in the art of "union avoidance" (busting) and strikes. From the beginning, their objective was to apply the same standards the chain has in their nonunion stores to the rest of the unionized chain. The goal of the company was to shift union members out of the jointly run union-employer health and welfare medical trust and into a company-run plan where workers would have no say over plan design, retiree benefits or, in the long run, whether there would be benefits at all. The company also wanted to permanently eliminate holiday premium and Sunday pay.
From the time picket lines went up until they were taken down, the conduct of picketers was determined, disciplined and respectful. During the strike, in another Alameda first, a rally of well upward of 300 took place in front of the store. Strikers, teachers, firefighters, members of the community and Teamsters, most of whom were from Alameda, rallied to support the strike. Clearly the community was on the side of the strikers, and that message resonated in the company's corporate suites in Sacramento.
While customers continued to stay away in droves, marathon bargaining for a settlement resulted in a tentative agreement Nov. 13. The pact provides for continued union benefits and livable wages, the primary objective of the strikers and the targets of the company. Picket lines came down around 11 a.m., although in Alameda a new kind of line went up with strikers signs announcing: "The strike is over! Welcome back! Go shopping!"
On behalf of the brave strikers in the Alameda Nob Hill, who manned the picket line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I would like to thank the Alameda community for your support. Alamedans showed a lot of heart during the dispute, they dropped off financial donations, helped picket and provided untold calories to the strikers in the form of doughnuts! Your support is what makes Alameda a special place and really helped win the strike. Again, on behalf of Alameda's Nob Hill strikers, thank you very much for your support!
Mike Henneberry, an Alameda resident, is communications director of United Food and Commer- cial Workers Local 5.