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Shoppers Turning to Non-Union Stores

Times Staff Writer

Making a salad dressing turned into a lengthy ordeal Monday for Kaylene Aukema.

Because of the meat cutters’ strike, the Newport Beach woman said, she had to travel to four stores before she found the ingredients for her dressing.

“They didn’t have anything, no nonfat milk or cottage cheese or buttermilk,” Aukema said.

So she finished her shopping at a non-union store, where some prices might have been higher, but the shelves were brimming.

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Employees Work Extra Hours

Other shoppers--who also said that they could not find such items as dairy products, produce and meat--were turning to non-union stores to stock their kitchens Monday.

At some non-union supermarkets in the county Monday, those who could pay more for choice cuts of meat did, and employees worked extra hours to meet demand.

A meat cutter at an Irvine Ranch Farmers Market in Newport Beach said he estimated that business had increased about 10% since the strike. The market, located in Fashion Island shopping center, lists prices such as $2.79 per pound for pork spareribs and $12.99 per pound for veal loin chops.

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Still, shoppers filled the store, and meat cutter Kevin Abraham said he and other workers in the meat department have been working long hours the past few weeks.

At a Christian Farmers Market in Anaheim, store manager Patricia Buus said business has improved since the strike, but the surge is expected this week.

Thanksgiving Coming

“It has been a slight increase, not dramatic. But prolonging the strike will really start bringing people in, especially with Thanksgiving coming up,” she said. “We are scheduling more hours for people and overlapping shifts.”

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Shopping at these markets may require extra driving or expense, but some customers said that for the upwardly mobile and the already wealthy, the extra effort is worthwhile.

Peggy Schick, who was buying meat at the Irvine Ranch Farmers Market in Tustin, said meat prices were only 10 to 20 cents higher there, “but it’s the best quality.”

She said the union stores she visited did not have such staples as vegetables and meat. “Ralphs was OK, but Vons was incredibly low,” Schick said.

Paul Warner, a meat cutter at the Tustin store, said: “People are buying larger quantities of items. I see a lot of the same faces but they’re here more often.”

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Warner said he has been working 10- and 11-hour days since the strike began. The store also hired two meat cutters last week and plans to hire a third this week, said Warner, the department’s assistant manager. “I am very concerned about the people involved, but it has been great for business. I hope this keeps up after the strike is over,” he said. The new meat cutters were hired as permanent employees, he said.

Two Santa Ana residents said they were shopping at the Tustin store because they could not find the cuts they wanted at two chain supermarkets.

“The meat counters were very bare and the produce section was weak,” said Tom Nista, a health club manager who lives next to a supermarket affected by the strike. His companion, Mary Roberts, a body builder, said she eats a lot of meats.

Catherine Clark of Huntington Beach, a clerk at the Irvine Ranch Farmers Market in Newport Beach, predicted that if the strike continues, more people will start shopping the non-union markets.

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“I had a clerk from Vons come in here the other day. She said she needs to work for her paycheck, but was doing her shopping here to support them (the strikers),” Clark said.


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