Strike poised to strain Giant Mediators fail to end walkout

operations expected to close

December 18, 1996|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

State mediators met with officials of Giant Food Inc. and striking Teamsters Local 639 separately yesterday, but the talks concluded last night without the two sides resolving disputes that will shut down Giant's warehouse, baking and dairy facilities today.

"We did see some movement on both sides, but not enough to reach a resolution," said Karen Napolitano, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

With 320 truck drivers on strike, Giant said there would be no work for the 2,100 employees who make Giant-brand dairy products and baked goods and work at its distribution centers. As a result, those workers, all Teamsters represented by different locals, will be idle today.

Giant said all its 174 stores will remain open and will be stocked by wholesale distributors.

But customers could confront picket lines outside the stores today, which marks the end of a 72-hour countdown since the strike began Sunday. During that period, drivers were required by their contract to deliver perishable goods, and the governor's office asked the Teamsters not to post pickets at stores during that time.

Teamsters officials did not return telephone calls yesterday, but on Monday they said strikers would begin picketing stores today.

At issue are pay raises and the company's wish to have the right to use nonunion drivers in the future.

As of late yesterday, no further negotiations were scheduled.

Federal mediators also have offered their help in resolving the dispute, said Barry Scher, a spokesman for Giant.

It is unclear whether the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents about 20,000 Giant store workers, will honor Teamsters picket lines at stores.

Tom McNutt, president of Food Workers Local 400 in Washington, said yesterday that he would ask his international president to decide whether members would be given the choice of honoring the truck drivers' picket lines.

The 20,000 workers include most employees inside the stores except managers. But McNutt said he believed no more than 10 percent of his members would honor the Teamsters' lines.

"To assume all these people who are preparing for Christmas are going to cut themselves out of a paycheck -- it stretches the imagination," McNutt said.

He said the Teamsters had made little attempt to contact his union and that he had still received no formal letter from them requesting the participation of his union.

"For them not to talk to us prior to the strike is kind of crazy," McNutt said.

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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