Authorities Intensify Security As Strikers Prepare For Large Rally
AUSTIN, Minn. (AP) _ Local authorities promised on Thursday to bring in police from neighboring towns if a demonstration Friday planned by striking Hormel meatpackers turns violent.
″A demonstration we’ll be able to handle,″ said police Chief Donald Hoffman. ″If that demonstrations turns into a mob, with the manpower we have, there’s no way we’ll be able to handle it.″
″Law and order is going to prevail here,″ said Mower County Sheriff Wayne Goodnature. ″I give you my word on that. Nobody’s going to turn this town into an area where people violate the law.″
Jim Guyette, president of striking Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said the union has tried to be peaceful in its protests, but said some union members have become ″spontaneous″ in their demonstrations.
″It’s our jobs we’re talking about,″ Guyette said.
The flagship plant of Geo. A. Hormel & Co. reopened Jan. 13, nearly five months after about 1,500 union meatpackers went on strike in a wage dispute. In the week after the reopening, one man was injured, car windows were smashed and nine strikers and their supporters were arrested outside the plant.
Gov. Rudy Perpich sent in 800 National Guard troops when local authorities said they were ill equipped to control the situation. He ordered the 500 Guardsmen to the Austin armory at the request of Mayor Tom Kough, a striking meatpacker, and sent the 300 other troops home.
Sgt. Gary Schwartzbauer, a Guard spokesman, said it would not take long for troops to respond if needed at the demonstration.
The company said it has no plans to hire additional security guards.
Plant manager Deryl Arnold said about 350 of the union members have crossed picket lines and returned to work. The company planned to hire 450 replacement workers by Friday, he said.
Strikers who have not returned by the time the company has 1,025 employees will have to wait until there are openings before they can be rehired, Arnold said.
The local has scheduled a Saturday meeting to discuss a fact-finder’s report on a mediator’s proposal to end the strike, but Guyette said he doesn’t believe the report has anything to offer the union. Meatpackers have twice rejected the proposal.
Workers at a Hormel plant in Ottumwa, Iowa, have honored the Austin local’s pickets there.
The strike began after Hormel cut wages by 23 percent in October 1984, lowering the base wage from $10.69 to $8.25 an hour. An arbitrator’s ruling increased the base rate to $9.25 an hour shortly before the strike began.