National Guard troops blocked a road to the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. plant yesterday so workers could pass pickets as the company said it exceeded its goal of hiring 750 people to replace striking meatpackers.
State Agriculture Department agents investigating sabotage to Hormel products found 29 punctured or ripped Hormel containers in 10 stores in the Minneapolis area, an official said.
Leaders of the 5 1/2-month walkout, to appear in court today for sentencing on contempt charges in connection with demonstrations, denied responsibility for the tampering but said they would step up civil disobedience.
Agriculture Commissioner Jim Nichols said the tampering included instances of punctured cans of SPAM or Hormel chili and ripped packages of Hormel bacon and other meat products. Two West St. Paul residents said they found razor blades in Hormel chili dogs.
Local P9 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union condemned the tampering. "Anybody who sticks metal objects in food . . . . you have to be a nut," strike strategist Ray Rogers said.
Workers at other Hormel plants have accepted a new contract with a base wage of $10 an hour, but Local P9 members, taking issue with changes in seniority rules, have twice rejected a federal mediator's proposal for the same base wage.