Grocery Pickets Are Attacked

Times Staff Writers

Striking supermarket workers were attacked in two apparently unrelated incidents Sunday in what law enforcement officers said might be the most violent encounters with the pickets since the grocery strike began in October.

Outside an Albertsons in Laguna Niguel, a striking worker was punched by one of half a dozen bat-wielding teens, Orange County Sheriff's Department officials said Monday.

The assailants were chased off by a security guard who fired a warning shot into the air.

Deputies arrested two teenagers in connection with the attack.

In Palm Springs, four people were arrested after firing a gun at striking supermarket workers in front of a Vons store. No injuries were reported.

Supermarket employees walked off the job at Vons and Pavilions stores Oct. 11.

The next day, Albertsons and Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs, locked out its workers. In all, about 70,000 workers at 859 stores have been affected.

According to deputies investigating the Laguna Niguel incident, the teens had driven by the store in the 30000 block of the Street of the Golden Lantern last week and tried to run down the pickets.

Six of them returned about 10:20 p.m. Sunday, brandishing baseball bats and taunting the strikers, witnesses said.

One of the pickets, Michael Gallagher, 21, of Dana Point, was confronted by two or three teens, sheriff's spokesman Lt. Larry Abbott said.

One teen punched Gallagher in the face, witnesses said, drawing blood.

An unidentified security guard, one of three at the store, fired a warning shot and the teens fled.

"If he didn't have a gun, I don't know what would have happened," said one picket, Nathan Gutzwiller, 18, of San Juan Capistrano.

Two of the teens were arrested after deputies spotted them walking in the area.

Gutzwiller and two other young strikers said they will no longer walk the picket lines late at night.

"We can't be here if our lives are at stake," Gutzwiller said.

Gallagher was taken to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo, where he was treated and released.

The teens, whose names were withheld because of their age, were released into their parents' custody.

In Palm Springs, police responded about 8 p.m. Sunday to reports of a fight at a Vons on East Tahquitz Canyon Way.

Witnesses said four people in a car pulled up in front of the store and started fighting with the pickets.

After one of the attackers allegedly fired three rounds from a .25-caliber pistol, they fled.

Police stopped the car and found two handguns, ammunition, two large knives and metal pipes inside.

Jesse Dale Allred, 21, and James Robert Berg II, 22, were arrested on suspicion of various weapons violations and released on $5,000 bail.

Two juveniles were arrested and released into their parents' custody.


Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.


On February 12, 2004 the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which had stated repeatedly that 70,000 workers were involved in the supermarket labor dispute in Central and Southern California, said that the number of people on strike or locked out was actually 59,000. A union spokeswoman, Barbara Maynard, said that 70,000 UFCW members were, in fact, covered by the labor contract with supermarkets that expired last year. But 11,000 of them worked for Stater Bros. Holdings Inc., Arden Group Inc.'s Gelson's and other regional grocery companies and were still on the job. (See: "UFCW Revises Number of Workers in Labor Dispute," Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2004, Business C-11)

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FOR THE RECORD Los Angeles Times Saturday December 06, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction Supermarket strike -- In its coverage of the supermarket strike and lockout that began Oct. 11, The Times has said repeatedly that the labor dispute affected 859 union grocery stores in Southern and Central California. In fact, 852 stores are affected.
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