Union Officials Promote Attendance at Three-Day Anti-Hormel Protest
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Union officials from Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles gave a show of support Wednesday to striking meatpackers staging a maverick walkout at Hormel’s flagship plant.
Officials of Local P-9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which has been on strike against the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. plant in Austin since August, have asked supporters from throughout the nation to join them for a ″massive show of solidarity″ Thursday through Saturday.
″It is our responsibility as elected (union) leadership to stop the concessionary trend. The Austin strike represents the front line,″ said Bob Brown of Philadelphia, a national vice president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, at a news conference.
Jim Guyette, president of the Austin local, said he hoped about 1,000 people would turn out to picket the plant and for a rally and parade Saturday featuring prominent labor and entertainment figures. Other than actor David Soul, Guyette could not say who would be in attendance.
Besides providing an opportunity to show solidarity with the strikers, the events are intended to build a national network of support for the consumer boycott of Hormel products, the union officials said.
The protest plans have worried law enforcement officials, whose request for state assistance was denied Monday by Gov. Rudy Perpich. A Perpich spokesman said the request was premature.
Austin Police Chief Donald Hoffman and Mower County Sheriff Wayne Goodnature, in their request to Perpich, said, ″The potential this week for a full-scale riot is the strongest it has been anytime during this dispute.″
Guyette said there would be no violence.
Also at the news conference were Art LeClair of Boston, a committeeman for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and David Arian of Los Angeles, president of a district council of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union.
Earlier Wednesday, about 75 striking meatpackers and supporters marched peacefully at the Hormel plant for two hours. There were no arrests.
Last month, the international withdrew its sanction of the walkout, ending strike benefits, and ordered Local P-9 back to work. The local refused.
About 1,500 P-9 members walked off their jobs at the plant Aug. 17 after the company cut wages 23 percent in October 1984. That cut lowered the base wage from $10.69 an hour to $8.25 an hour. An arbitrator’s ruling increased the base to $9.25 an hour shortly before the strike began. P-9 has twice rejected a federal mediator’s proposal including a $10 base wage.
Hormel reopened the plant Jan. 13 and says it has hired about 500 union members and about 540 non-union workers to bring the plant back into production.