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Labor Leaders Seek Help Outside California

LOS ANGELES - Labor leaders launched a campaign Tuesday to enlist union members across the country in the cause of striking grocery clerks in Southern California, according to an Associated Press report.

The strategy involves persuading consumers and community groups to support strikers in a variety of ways, including participating in demonstrations, town hall meetings, and letter-writing campaigns, as well as donating money or even committing acts of civil disobedience, said Ron Blackwell, director of corporate affairs for the AFL-CIO in Washington.

The AFL-CIO appointed two of its leaders to coordinate the national strategy. Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the umbrella organization of 64 international unions, will work with Ron Judd, who organized AFL-CIO protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, to pressure Albertsons, Inc., Kroger Co., and Safeway, Inc.

An estimated 70,000 Southern California supermarket employees have been out of work since union members voted to strike Safeway's Vons and Pavillions stores on Oct. 11. Ralphs stores, which are owned by Kroger, and the Albertsons chain responded by locking out their union workers.

The shift in strategy comes as talks between the companies and the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents the grocery workers, have reached an impasse over contract differences, particularly the cost and scope of health care benefits for current employees and future hires.

Formal negotiations stalled in December, and secret talks broke off earlier this month.
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