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Would You Cross a Picket Line to Vote?

Raley's employees maintained a picket line outside their store in Elk Grove, even while it was being used as a polling place.

Union members are picketing outside a polling place in Elk Grove Tuesday, but it's not because of any ballot measure or candidate.

Raley's employees who walked off the job Sunday are continuing to protest their employer, even while the store on Elk Grove Boulevard is doubling as a place for residents to vote.

"We want everyone to go vote, we just hope they don't shop here," Raley's head clerk Doug Troutman said as he held a picket sign outside the store. "A lot of people come up here waving their ballot, [saying] 'I'm just here to vote and I support you.' We love hearing that."

Troutman, a Raley's employee for 13 years, said the union's main concern is the company's proposal to eliminate healthcare benefits for retirees.

Michelle Leister, who has been a regular customer at the store since it opened, said she has stayed away since the strike began.

"It made me very uncomfortable," Leister said of passing protestors, many of whom she now considers personal friends, to cast her ballot. "I can feel for their plea."

Sean Barry, who lives nearby but doesn't shop at the store, disagreed.

"It doesn't bother me a bit because I'm here to vote," Barry said. "It wouldn't bother me either way."

Sacramento County Elections officials briefly considered moving the polling place outside or to another location but thought it would be too confusing for voters. 

Inspector Dawn Sirstad said she asked the protestors to refrain for a day or not picket in front one of the store's doors, but they declined.

"I don't think they're necessarily harassing [anyone]," Sirstad said. "We want everybody to feel comfortable."

Elections officials are also offering curbside voting at the store–a poll worker will bring a ballot and a clipboard out to a voter's car–but so far no one had requested it Tuesday afternoon.

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Disclosure: Cody Kitaura is a former Bel Air employee and former member of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

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Brad November 06, 2012 at 09:55 PM
While I certainly don't blame anyone for protesting, I do feel that doing so at a voting location is in poor taste. Isn't there a law about that? Anyway, they could suspend their protest for a day and allow people to vote unmolested. Not that everyone would mind or feel bothered by it, but some may end up feeling intimidated by a crowd of people holding signs. They might not even read them or know what they about. A worse case would be if they choose to not vote at all because of it. And the sad truth is that such a thing may have already happened. Maybe someone pulled up to vote today, saw a crowd of signs and just turned around and drove back home. No one would ever know. They really shouldn't be protesting today at that location, I'm sure there is somewhere else they could go for the next few hours until the polls close. As it is, I suspect they might likely turn more people off from supporting their protest rather than gaining any new support.
Julie Radke November 07, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Picket away! Like Troutman said - they didn't mind hearing "I'm just here to vote. I support you." It gives us consumers a chance to say that since I won't go near a Raley's right now.

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