Striking meatpackers and supporters ended their day-long blockade at the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. plant yesterday after Gov. Rudy Perpich (D) called out the National Guard to protect workers crossing the picket lines.

The plant reopened a week ago for the first time in the five-month strike by 1,500 members of Local P9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

"We expect to operate the plant tomorrow, and we understand the National Guard will be present to assure our employes and prospective employes of safe entry and exit at the plant," plant manager Deryl Arnold said.

Earlier, Arnold said there had been "a complete loss of law and order" at the plant. "The police are powerless to control mob violence, mass picketing, wanton destruction of property -- and mob psychology has taken over." A Hormel photographer was injured, he said.

About 50 cars drove in front of the $100 million plant and stopped, forming a bumper-to-bumper barricade, while about 50 other cars circled the plant.

Local P9 went on strike Aug. 17, 10 months after Hormel cut wages 23 percent and dropped the base wage from $10.69 to $8.25 an hour. The company said it made the move to remain competitive