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Grocery Strike Hurting Suppliers

November 12, 1987

CLEVELAND (AP) _ A grocery workers strike that has closed 120 stores and idled 9,000 union members is forcing suppliers to begin laying off some of their workers, officials said Wednesday.

Negotiations arranged by a federal mediator were to resume Friday morning, said lawyer Robert Duvin, the supermarkets’ negotiator.

The walkout has prompted one travel agent to offer a $99 ″Grocery Tour″ to Detroit on Saturday that includes round-trip airfare, a visit to a shopping mall and, of course, a grocery store stop.

The strike by members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 880 began Tuesday after contract talks broke down over the union’s demand for limits on the number of part-time employees.

The union decided to target 26 Stop-N-Shop stores, but the other members of an industry group, the Cleveland Food Industry Committee, decided to close an additional 90 stores, mostly in Cuyahoga County.

The committee represents 13 supermarket chains in Cleveland and Akron in contract talks with Local 880, which has nearly 14,000 members. The Akron area stores were not affected.

The union’s contract expired Sept. 13.

Independent and union stores that remained open reported continued brisk business Wednesday.

According to Progressive Grocer, an industry publication, the closed supermarkets control about 65 percent of the Cleveland area marketplace.

George Bradac, supervisor at the city-owned West Side Market, said vendors were very busy. The market, which is open four days a week, has 100 indoor stands offering meat, dairy products and baked goods and 85 outdoor stands of fruits and vegetables.

Grocery store suppliers, however, said the strike was forcing them to curtail production and lay off workers. And the usual heavy volume of food advertisements was missing Wednesday from area newspapers.

″We have had to lay off some production people and drivers,″ said Arthur Pile, president of Hough Bakeries.

He said the bakery had laid off more than 50 people, about 20 percent of its workforce. Pile said grocery stores represented a ″very significant″ part of the bakery’s business, but he would not elaborate.

American Seaway Foods Inc., the area’s largest grocery wholesaler, has laid off some of its 650 employees, according to Michael Borstein. But he would not say how many.

At Cotton Club Bottling and Canning Co., about a dozen drivers have been told not to report to work Thursday and Friday, said company secretary Martin Becker.

Under the old contract, grocery workers are paid $4.15 to $10.57 per hour.

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