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Grocery Stores Defend Temporary Hires

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By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis – The St. Louis area's three largest grocery chains are defending their hiring of temporary replacement workers in the event of a work stoppage next week.

About 10,000 unionized employees are in a contract dispute with Schnuck's, Dierberg's and Shop & Save.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice claim against the Greater St. Louis Food Employers' Council that says stores are hiring temporary employees at the same wage as a more experienced employees.

Council spokesman Michael Kaemmerer said that's true, but that any temporary workers will not receive benefits.

"We've said to those folks, especially given that temporary status, this is a cash offer; it's not tied to benefits," Kaemmerer said. "And yet they turn around and say, well, you're not paying the same."

The union will vote whether to strike on Tuesday.

Kaemmerer said the three chains are prepared to initiate a lock-out against striking workers if necessary.

United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 655 president Robert Kelley said the offer to temporary workers is unfair.

"It just flies in the face of the position the employer took throughout the entire bargaining process," Kelley said. "I'm terribly disappointed, and I would've expected more."

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