By DANIEL TAUB
After an eight-year stalemate with the family owner of a Vernon factory that makes Farmer John meat products, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 has ended its boycott against the company and is about to enter into contract negotiations.
The more than 1,000 employees represented by UFCW Local 770 at Vernon-based Clougherty Packing Co., which sells Dodger Dogs and other products under the Farmer John label, have been working without a contract since 1990, when the union refused to ratify the company’s “best and final offer.”
Rene Castro, organizing coordinator for Local 770’s “Food and Jobs with Dignity” campaign, said he is now in contact with Clougherty Packing’s attorney, and hopes renewed negotiations will result in a new contract.
“We’re hoping to meet within the next two weeks for a first meeting and continue for the next couple months until a new agreement is reached,” Castro said.
Anthony Clougherty, director of personnel and a company owner, confirmed that Local 770 is in contact with Clougherty Packing’s attorney.
“We’re just trying to feel our way right now,” Clougherty said. “We’re going to take a proactive approach on this thing and do what we can. We’re looking forward to this negotiation.”
In 1990, Local 770 asked Clougherty Packing for a contract that would have required all employees to be union members, making the company a closed shop. Clougherty countered by offering Local 770 a contract without that provision. The union, not wanting to strike, organized a boycott instead.
According to Castro, Clougherty officials learned of the boycott plans and inserted a clause into the contract barring consumer boycotts by the union. Local 770 members refused to ratify that contract, and instituted the boycott.
In the early years of the boycott, Castro said, Local 770 ran newspaper and radio ads urging customers not to buy Farmer John products. Union members also picketed outside Dodger Stadium, where Dodger Dogs are sold.
The boycott, however, has not been as active in recent years. Castro, who joined Local 770 last November, said he thought ending it would be a way of showing the company that the union is interested in negotiating once again.
“I thought we needed to demonstrate our willingness to resolve the dispute,” he said. “Our goal is to get a contract.”
Castro said that during the time Local 770’s members have been without a contract, the starting wage has remained at $6 an hour, and the standard raise for completing one year at the plant has been 16 cents an hour.
“There’s been no change, basically, in the last eight years in terms of their wage levels,” he said.
Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, the former general manager of Service Employees International Union, Local 660, Los Angeles County’s largest union, said he is optimistic that the end of the boycott will result in a new agreement.
“Both parties are basically looking up and saying, ‘It’s a new day; let’s see if there’s a new way we can work together,’ ” Cedillo said.