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Friday, August 20, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Lawsuit Is Latest Salvo In Ernst-Union Battle

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1001 said today it is filing suit against Ernst Home Centers in King County Superior Court alleging that Ernst has been knowingly selling toilets that violate state water conservation requirements.

The union, which is in the midst of a contract dispute with Ernst, said the chain is selling, at discount prices, toilets that use 3.5 gallons per flush. Since July 1, the state has required that newly sold toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.

An Ernst spokeswoman said early today the chain had not yet been served with the suit but had no further comment.

The suit is the latest attack launched by the union in a bitter, year-old battle against Ernst.

Conflict first surfaced last fall when the two sides sat down to negotiate a new three-year contract for the chain's 450 Seattle-area clerks. Talks hit a logjam when Ernst proposed to make the chain an open shop, making union membership voluntary.

The old contract expired Nov. 1. Since then, the two sides have hit impasses at the bargaining table and have faced off in court.

Ernst sued the union last fall, accusing it of misleading employees with a mailer encouraging workers to file back-wage claims for off-the-clock work.

Local 1001 responded with a boycott, unfair-labor-practice charges and a class-action lawsuit alleging that Ernst failed to pay employees for work done on their own time.

A King County Superior Court judge recently dismissed Ernst's lawsuit against the union.

Ernst has 72 stores in six states.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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