WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Union leaders and management officials for Northern California-based Raley's were back at the bargaining table Saturday in a last-ditch effort to avoid what would be the first strike in the chain's 77-year history.
Officials on both sides declined to release any details of Saturday's talks, except to say bargaining resumed -- with the help of a federal mediator -- at 9:30 a.m.
If labor leaders and the chain's managers don't reach an agreement by midnight, union workers at the grocer's 128 stores in Northern California and Nevada could walk off the job.
Both sides are at odds over a proposed wage freeze, elimination of premium pay for Sunday shifts and health care benefits.
Raley's management had threatened to impose a contract with its terms on Thursday, but when a federal mediator became involved in the talks, the company said it would hold off until midnight Saturday.
Raley's says it needs to cut costs in the face of a weak economy and competition from nonunionized companies that also sell groceries, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
But union officials say the chain has not agreed to a full audit of its finances, failing to make the case for the concessions
West Sacramento-based Raley's is a privately-owned company that employs 13,000 people at 115 stores in California and 13 in Nevada operating under the Raley's name, as well as Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods, Food Source and Aisle 1 Fuel Stations, according to its website.
The United Food Commercial Workers says it represents 7,400 of the chain's employees.