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Union Meat Workers Picket Trade Fair Supermarkets in Queens

ASTORIA — Unionized meat workers were picketing outside Trade Fair supermarkets in Queens Wednesday, a week after they say they were locked out of their jobs during failed contract negotiations with management.

Over 100 workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 342, have been picketing Trade Fair's nine Queens locations for the past week. They say they've been without a contract since October and claim the supermarket chain's management is trying to cut hours and health benefits.

"A lot of these workers have been here for 15, 20 years," said union rep Lisa Boutis, who protested with workers outside the Trade Fair on 30th Avenue in Astoria, where the group held signs and handed out fliers to passersby.

"He wants to cut their hours from 40 to 24 a week, he wants to take away their medical, he wants to make them all part-timers," she said, referring to Trade Fair owner Frank Jaber, whom she said walked out on contract negotiations with the union last week and has refused to let its members return to work.

Trade Fair's corporate office declined to comment, but several large banners were hanging outside the Astoria location notifying customers of a possible "disruption" from the picketing workers and said the company is "proud that we provide top-notch wages, fringes and working conditions for our meat department."

"We are in negotiations with the union and told them that we need to keep our costs competitive with other non-union stores in the neighborhood so we can continue to provide you with top quality meat at fair, competitive prices," the sign read.