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    Union Grocery Workers Strike in Houston Area

    workers at Rice Epicurean Markets walked off the job and marched in picketlines Monday after contract negotiations with the supermarket chain collapsed.

    Aug. 28--Union workers at Rice Epicurean
    Markets walked off the job and marched n picket
    lines Monday after contract negotiations with the
    supermarket chain collapsed.

    Wages, health-care expenses and the right to have
    employee disputes resolved by independent
    arbitration are key issues in the battle between the
    company and members of the United Food &
    Commercial Workers Local 455.

    The union represents checkers, stockers and
    workers in the produce, bakery and deli
    departments. It does not represent managers and
    meat cutters, although the meat cutters are
    members of another UFCW local and have informed
    the company they intend to honor the strike later
    this week.

    "Although many employees are reluctant to take up
    picket signs, all are fed up with management's
    demand for reduced wage, benefits and conditions,"
    said Miles Anderson, a spokesman for the union.

    Company President Gary Friedlander responded,
    "We've always taken pride in the positive
    relationship our company has had with our
    associates. We are extremely disappointed that the
    union has chosen to call a strike and picket our
    business."

    Friedlander said few of his employees have walked
    off the job, and some of those who did have returned
    to work.

    The UFCW offered a different account, saying it is
    pleased with the number of employees who
    responded to the call for a strike.

    "We've had good support from all the stores," he
    said.

    There were two picketers marching in a steady
    drizzle Monday night out in front of the Rice
    Epicurean at Weslayan and Westheimer. Neither
    would comment about the strike, referring all
    questions to union representatives.

    Instead, they handed out leaflets that read, "Our
    company appears to be determined to destroy our
    wages, benefits and conditions -- and our union."

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