500 Teamsters picket Giant on Day 7 of strike Union seeks public support

store says business is up

December 22, 1996|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

As many as 500 Teamsters picketed at Giant Food Inc. stores yesterday, as the company's truck drivers continued their weeklong strike over distribution rights.

"We are asking customers not to patronize Giant until this dispute is over," said John Steger, vice president of Teamsters Local 639, which represents the truckers. "People who have an understanding of what downsizing is are supporting us because they know it can happen to anybody -- blue collar or white collar."

As the strike by 320 union truckers entered its seventh day yesterday and negotiations seemed stalled, Teamsters picketed in front of 30 of Giant's 174 stores in the Baltimore-Washington area, Steger said.

Company officials said the strike has not hurt business because Giant has contracted with outside wholesale distributors to deliver products during the strike.

"If anything, our business is up today because this is the weekend before the holiday," said Barry Scher, spokesman for the company.

"We have plenty of holiday turkeys, perishable and nonperishable goods. We're in good shape as far as our stock is concerned," he said.

Officials of Giant and representatives of Teamsters Local 639 met Friday evening to talk through a state mediator, who shuttled between the two sides in separate rooms. But the talks concluded without the two resolving the dispute that had caused Giant to lay off 2,100 workers Wednesday in its warehouse, baking and dairy facilities in Landover.

"We weren't able to accomplish anything at all," Steger said.

The talks, held in College Park, lasted almost three hours, Steger said. It was the first time the two parties met in the same building with mediators from the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation since the strike began Dec. 15.

At issue is the company's wish to have the right to use wholesale distributors in the future. Giant has said truck drivers would keep their jobs, but the company wants the right to use outside distributors as well, particularly as the Landover-based company expands into southern New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

As of late yesterday, no further negotiations were scheduled.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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