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