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Market Talks Move Slowly as Pickets Are Curbed

Times Labor Writer

Negotiations in Southern California’s 4-day-old supermarket strike continued Friday as markets geared up for the first weekend of shopping since the walkout began.

Picketing intensified at the 164 Vons stores in Southern California. And consumers in some areas found it more difficult to get the cuts of meat they wanted. One Temple City man complained to a reporter that he searched in vain for filet mignon at Albertson’s, Ralphs and Safeway stores.

Meanwhile, Vons secured a court order from Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John L. Cole limiting the number of pickets at market entrances, similar to a ruling lawyers for a number of market chains obtained Thursday from another Superior Court judge restricting picketing at their warehouses.

Friday’s order, which was uncontested by the unions, limits striking unions to five pickets per entrance at each Vons store and bars the blocking of entrances or harassing of customers or employees. The order further prohibits pickets from drinking alcoholic beverages within 400 yards of a store entrance.

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Cole’s ruling also prohibits pickets from entering stores. This was a restraint that the market chains were particularly anxious to obtain after incidents Thursday in which groups of union members walked into stores, chanting and singing, and successfully urged a number of retail clerks to leave their jobs in support of the strike.

A similar demonstration was held Friday at the Vons Value Center in Orange, but it was considerably less boisterous than the previous incidents. About 50 meat cutters and Teamsters picketed the store and persuaded about 35 clerks and clerks’ helpers to leave.

Debbie Estrada, a clerk who walked out, said she felt her action might lead to a quicker resolution of the strike.

“The faster we support the strikers, the sooner the strike might be settled,” she said. “Vons is a good company, but they can’t run the stores by themselves.”

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There was less violence on picket lines Friday than on previous days. More than 10 people have been injured in picket line incidents. No violence was reported at San Diego County stores.

Late Thursday and early Friday morning, snipers fired in separate incidents at two independent truckers hauling food on Interstate 5 in Tustin and Downey. Police said one trucker was hit in the arm by a rifle bullet.

Progress in negotiations was reported to be slow. Negotiators for the striking Teamsters Union were talking with the Food Employers Council, which represents management of the major supermarket chains. Representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers, who bargain for the striking meat cutters, sat in on the discussions.

Talks between the Teamsters and the council had recessed at 12:20 a.m. Friday in Long Beach after several hours of discussion about one issue: management’s demand that it be allowed to subcontract work that is done by unionized drivers, warehouse personnel and office employees. The talks were moved later Friday to the Anaheim Hilton Hotel.

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David Willauer, a council spokesman, said “some progress” had been made at the earlier session. Jerry Vercruse, chief negotiator for the Teamsters, said that management had agreed to present a list of situations when it wanted to subcontract and that the union would review the list.

Other key Teamster issues involve management’s demand that it be allowed to impose a lower wage scale on newly hired employees and be allowed to move into new warehouses without automatically granting the union recognition at those locations.

The principal unresolved issues for meat cutters are management’s goal of cutting the guaranteed workday from eight hours to four; its introduction of a lower-paid meat clerk classification that would cover about 70% of the tasks done by meat cutters; and its reduction of the number of hours a day that stores are required to have a journeyman meat cutter on duty.

Sales at Vons, the chain that the striking unions chose as their initial target, are down 10% since the walkout began, according to Dan Granger, Vons marketing vice president.

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The market chains involved in the dispute are Albertson’s, Alpha Beta, Hughes, Lucky (Food Basket in San Diego), Ralphs, Safeway and Vons. Stater Bros. is the only chain that has not locked out striking employees.


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