After 16 months of bickering and the first strike in Raley's history, labor peace has been officially restored at the West Sacramento supermarket chain.
Raley's said Friday that its union workers have ratified a new two-year labor contract, more than a month after a 10-day walkout ended.
The new contract means wage and benefit concessions for about 7,000 workers, including employees at the Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods subsidiaries. Nob Hill has stores in Salinas and Monterey.
Raley's has said it is losing millions of dollars a year and needs the savings.
"We are very happy that it has been ratified and very pleased with the new contract as it provides us with the long-term fix we wanted and needed," the company said in announcing the ratification.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 in San Jose confirmed that its members voted in favor of the contract.
The prolonged labor drama at Raley's was a testament to the profound changes gripping the industry. Union supermarkets have long provided solid pay and benefits for blue-collar workers, but that's come under siege as nonunion competitors like Wal-Mart grab significant market share.
The result was months of bitter negotiating, leading to a strike that ended Nov. 13.
The new contract says employees will temporarily give up bonus pay for Sunday and holiday shifts, and will pay more for health care. Top pay remains $21 an hour plus benefits, although most workers don't earn that much.
Workers were able to preserve the core of a health plan that's one of the most generous in the grocery business. And Raley's agreed to let the union organize the grocer's 22 nonunion stores without management opposition — a concession long sought by the union.
Fittingly, the announcement of the voting results was delayed by four days because of a fresh dispute.
The UFCW was going to count the votes last Monday. Instead, it impounded the ballots, saying Raley's illegally implemented some of the wage cutbacks without waiting for ratification. Raley's said it had a right to do that.
On Friday afternoon, Raley's said the two sides agreed to "expedited arbitration" over the issue. The voting results were released two hours later.