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LOS ANGELES - As the Southern California supermarket labor dispute enters its 15th week, several thousand people formed a "human chain" at a Vons market in Garden Grove, Calif. over the weekend in support of striking and locked-out workers.
The demonstration, which coincided with the holiday weekend honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, denotes an escalation of tensions by the United Food and Commercial Workers union in its battle with Vons, Ralphs, and Albertsons over health care benefits in a new contract.
Dozens of police in riot gear and on horseback monitored the demonstrators, who wore T-shirts proclaiming, "One Day Longer, One Day Stronger" and locked arms outside the store at 9852 Chapman Avenue in an effort to keep customers from going inside
The labor strike, which has 70,000 workers on the street, continues to drag on with seemingly no end in sight. Four days of secret talks between the two sides broke up Jan. 11 with only "limited progress" being made, according to the UFCW's Web site.
The union announced it would resume picketing at some Ralphs stores beginning today. The union took down pickets at Ralphs Oct. 31 as a convenience to grocery shoppers, who have begun crossing picket lines in greater numbers as the strike and lockout drags on. Workers will also reportedly picket Vons corporate headquarters in Arcadia, Calif. tomorrow.
A federal mediator reportedly hopes to bring the two sides back to the table by the end of the month.