New Talks in Market Strike Only Accent Gulf

Times Staff Writer

Representatives of Southern California supermarkets and 10,000 striking meat cutters resumed bargaining talks on Wednesday, but negotiations quickly soured, reinforcing the wide gulf that has prolonged the strike for 24 days.

The level of distrust between management and labor was also evident when the markets rejected an offer by a second striking union, the Teamsters, to help deliver the markets’ surplus food to food banks and other charitable organizations that feed the hungry.

An article in Wednesday’s editions of The Times reported that many of the seven market chains affected by the strike lack the drivers to deliver surplus food that is normally donated to the organizations.


In response, the Teamsters said union drivers would be willing to cross picket lines and donate their time to restore the deliveries. However, Joe McLaughlin, president of the Food Employers Council, which represents the market chains, said the markets do not trust striking Teamsters to handle supermarket trucks during the labor dispute in light of numerous instances of violence that have occurred since the strike began Nov. 5.

‘Security Problems’

“There’s no way with the security problems that exist,” McLaughlin said. “We’re going to make every effort ourselves to get that food into the centers.”

Three more disturbances were reported Wednesday at markets targeted by the strike.

Shoppers were evacuated from a Ralphs market in Anaheim at 7:12 p.m. when an unknown chemical was poured on a cardboard box at the rear of the store, creating fumes that irritated eyes and throats, Lt. Roger Baker said. No one was injured and police had no suspects.

At a Hughes market in West Los Angeles, several people suffered from burning eyes, when chemical fumes forced an evacuation. At a Lucky market warehouse in Irvine, two picketing Teamsters were arrested on suspicion of assault, after they allegedly smashed windows in a truck, injuring the driver.

In Wednesday’s negotiations, representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the meat cutters, offered a contract proposal that was immediately rejected by the Food Employers Council.

The talks, which continued Wednesday evening, were the first since Saturday, when three hours of negotiation ended with the meat-cutters union rejecting a management contract proposal.


Talks between the markets and the Teamsters Union, which represents 12,000 striking drivers and warehousemen, also broke off Saturday, after four days of negotiations. The two sides in that contract dispute have agreed to resume deliberations Friday afternoon.

The strike-lockout, which has focused on the markets’ desire to cut labor costs by weakening union work rules, has forced about 1,000 supermarkets to hire replacement drivers, warehousemen and meat handlers. The move has clogged the retail food distribution process, causing some shelf shortages.

The chemical fume incident at the Hughes Market at 11361 National Blvd. created what the market’s assistant manager, Bob Andruco, called “instant tears.”

“There was no warning,” he said.

A city Fire Department hazardous materials team was not immediately able to determine what caused the fumes, which forced evacuation of the market at 2:30 p.m., during what Andruco called “our busiest day of the year.”

Thirteen customers and employees had their eyes washed or were given oxygen outside the market, according to the Fire Department, which estimated that there were about 200 people in the market at the time.

The assault in Irvine occurred late Tuesday night as a truck was leaving the Lucky market warehouse. Police said Teamsters Gerard Flanigan, 34, of Garden Grove and John Nev, 31, of Irvine were arrested shortly after the truck’s driver, Guy Rogers, 26, of Bakersfield, was struck by flying glass.


Flanigan and Nev were booked at Orange County Jail and later released, police said. Rogers was treated at Saddleback Community Hospital in Laguna Hills.