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HUNGER STRIKE STARTS : LAID-OFF WORKERS PROTEST JOB LOSS AT PRICE PFISTER.

Byline: Deborah Adamson Daily News Staff Writer

Gerardo Ochoa is willing to brave days of driving rain and nights of cold misery to bring home this message to his former employer, Price Pfister: Give us a fair severance package.

Dripping with rain in his light beige jacket and jeans, the 41-year-old forklift operator was among half a dozen former employees who began a seven-day hunger strike Thursday on the sidewalk outside the faucet maker's facility.

``It's fair to get a just severance package, especially since we've sacrificed so many years to the company,'' said Ochoa, the sole supporter of a wife and three children. ``Unemployment is not enough.''

Price Pfister executives were unavailable for comment. Executives of Black & Decker, its parent company, declined to comment.

Price Pfister is in the process of cutting 300 jobs at Pacoima. Instead, the work will be done in Mexico.

City officials have said that the company wanted to cut costs because it was forced by state environmental regulations to change its method of manufacturing to a more expensive technique.

In January, the faucet maker settled an environmental lawsuit for $2.4 million. It was forced to change its manufacturing method from sand-casting to the more costly machining process.

Price Pfister has decided to close its foundry in Pacoima.

There are about 900 jobs left at the Price Pfister facility, which the city hopes to keep. City officials are putting together an incentive package to keep Price Pfister from moving out of the area. They hope to find other companies - or a worker and investor buyout - to take over the foundry.

Councilman Richard Alarcon, who showed up to show support, said a few groups have expressed interest in the foundry. He did not identify them. Alarcon and other city, state and federal officials have been meeting with Price Pfister executives to find another use for the foundry and encourage the company to stay in town.

Meanwhile, union leaders have been negotiating with Price Pfister for a severance package for laid-off workers.

Union leaders called the company's last offer - half a week's pay and one week of medical benefits for every year of service, among others - inadequate. The union is asking for at least one week's pay and about a month's worth of medical coverage for every year of service.

Dozens of former Price Pfister employees and hunger-strike supporters huddled out on the sidewalk, carrying placards in English and Spanish that ask for justice.

A sign saying ``Dignity and Respect for Price Pfister Workers!'' in Spanish was plastered on a wall above the name of the company.

Soft-spoken Victoria Sevilla, a 56-year-old grandmother and sole provider for two children, said her family didn't want her to go on a hunger strike because of concern for her health.

``They're more scared than I am,'' said the former Price Pfister packer, who was laid off in August. ``But I told them it was my situation. . . . I want to bring attention to the company's injustice and pressure them for just compensation.''

Sevilla said that when she was last laid off by a photography-supplies company, workers were given $1,000 for every year of service.

The Rev. Patrick Thompson from the Santa Rosa de Lima Church in San Fernando showed up to encourage and pray with his parishioners.

``They're desperate,'' he said. ``Some have worked there for 20 to 25 years. There aren't good prospects for finding good work again at their age.''

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Photo

PHOTO Victoria Sevilla keeps her sign dry Thursday as she pickets the company that laid her off.

John McCoy/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 22, 1996
Words:597
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