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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Meijer reports little effect from boycott

Officials of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based chain say sales at its Toledo area stores were strong over the weekend. Officials of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based chain say sales at its Toledo area stores were strong over the weekend.
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Meijer, Inc., officials said yesterday that some customers heeded a union call to boycott the chain's four Toledo stores, but that cash registers were chirping during the crucial Thanksgiving weekend buying rush.

“Our traffic was impacted a little, but we still had strong sales throughout the weekend,” said John Zimmerman, a spokesman for the chain in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Toledo Local 911 of the United Food & Commercial Workers halted picketing Wednesday afternoon after a fruitful morning meeting between negotiators for the company and the union, which represents 1,200 workers at the chain locally.

But a boycott announced a week ago resumed Friday morning when Meijer negotiators reneged on a promise to get back with the union on unresolved issues in the two-month-old contract dispute, Local 911 President Jefferson Stephens said.

The Meijer spokesman said chain officials were upset to see pickets return during a weekend that is considered key to retailers' crucial Christmas sales. The company is waiting to hear back from the union, Mr. Zimmerman said.

“We've asked them to ... come up with a reasonable solution to resolve this,” he said.

The major sticking point in contract talks has been a company demand to nearly double over the next three years the amount taken out of employees' paychecks to cover health insurance premiums.

Meanwhile, Local 911's decision not to call a strike meant that union members stayed on the job. Parking lots were reported to be filled as buyers took advantage of the usual Thanksgiving-weekend discounts.

The union president said pickets were out Friday and Saturday and that they stayed for about six hours in the morning.


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