The strike against seven large Southern California supermarket chains concluded its first week Monday with no resolution in sight.
No negotiations were held Monday and none were scheduled for today. There has been no bargaining since talks broke off Saturday night.
Representatives of striking meat cutters and Teamsters said they had no contact with negotiators for the Food Employers Council, the bargaining agent for the markets, or federal mediator Frank Allen, who has been supervising the talks.
David Willauer, a spokesman for the Food Employers Council, said the organization was waiting for a written response from the Teamsters to a proposal the group made to the union Friday on the thorny issue of subcontracting work now done by union members.
San Diego consumers, meanwhile, are feeling the pressure of the labor dispute, with food supplies lower than usual at Vons outlets, the strikers' initial target.
"The meat selection is sort of crummy," Cindy Ducker, 29, said while shopping with her husband at a Vons store in Clairemont. "I've noticed there has been less food put out today."
While shopping at a Point Loma Vons, George and Rhonda Grayned said they noticed a definite change in the supermarket since the strike began--low stock. The couple was not able to find the type of meat they needed but were quick to point out that the service has remained "really good" since the strike began.
Doug Morril, 24, of Mission Valley said of the Point Loma Vons: "They're a little bit short up front (referring to the long lines and the handful of clerks at checkout counters). And I see a definite lack of meat."
One Clairemont customer, who asked not to be identified, said, "You don't find the selection on the shelves as you normally would. Anybody would be stupid to say there isn't a change. I've never seen it like this any other time I have shopped.
"I can sympathize with them, but I have to eat."
Mick McMahon, secretary-treasurer of Local 229 of the meat cutters union, said that his union hopes shoppers will notice the decreased food supplies at local markets. "If there is no impact at all, what good is the strike?" McMahon said.
Union members are "fighting for their very lives" to maintain the benefits and guarantees they have acquired over the last 35 years, McMahon said.
"Any strike is to stop the business, and that's how you have to do it," he said.
Meanwhile, David Willauer, labor relations associate for the Food Employers Council, said that because of the "threats, assaults and intimidation" by the strikers at some stores and Vons distribution warehouses (mainly in the greater Los Angeles area), a temporary decrease in food supplies is expected.
Willauer said that although "the violence" has disrupted the type of service offered at a few of the stores, his reports show "that the strike has had little effect."
While the strike continued Monday, one Clairemont shopper described what she did last week when she discovered that the two sides were at odds.
"When I heard about the strike, I stocked up on everything," Kim Mitich, 34, said.
Dan Swinton, a spokesman for the striking unions, asserted that the strike had severely curtailed business at Vons markets. That was flatly disputed by Dan Granger, vice president of marketing for Vons, which has 164 stores in Southern California.
"We're estimating, following a poll of six counties, that Vons has lost conservatively $15 million and it could be as high as $24 million," said Swinton. He said the estimate was based on discussions with union officials in six counties where stores are being picketed.
Swinton said that a typical Vons store does a volume of $300,000 a week and that business typically was off 50% during the first week of the strike.
"That's absolutely crazy," replied Granger.
He acknowledged that the stores had suffered some loss of business but stressed that part of the decline was normal for the second week of the month. He said store business normally declines 6% to 7% from the first week to the second week.
Swinton and Granger also gave widely varying estimates of how many clerks have left their jobs in support of the strike. Swinton said that 35% of Vons clerks were honoring picket lines. Specifically, he said 750 of the 2,500 Vons clerks represented by Local 770 of the United Food & Commercial Workers, the large clerks' local in Los Angeles, had left their jobs.
Granger said the figures were a gross exaggeration. He said only 5% of the stores' clerks were honoring picket lines.
The other chains affected by the strike are Albertsons, Alpha Beta, Hughes, Lucky (Food Basket in San Diego), Ralphs and Safeway, which have locked out employees of the striking unions in retaliation for the walkout at Vons.