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Labor leaders in Virginia are calling for shoppers to boycott Food Lion, accusing the North Carolina-based grocery chain of paying substandard wages and aggressively blocking attempts to unionize the stores.

Union members will gather in Covington Monday for an hour-long parade to draw attention to the effort. In Belgium, workers will observe a traditional American Labor Day Monday to show solidarity with their U.S. counterparts.Food Lion spokesman Mike Mozingo said Friday that the union effort has been going on for years and that the chain has not noticed a drop in sales. ``Particularly in Virginia our stores do very well,' he said.

During a news conference this week at the Virginia State AFL-CIO headquarters, union officials pledged to continue their four-year battle with the supermarket chain to improve benefits and pay.

Thomas R. McNutt, president of Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said that his organization wants to see the Food Lion stores represented by a union.

A Belgium-based conglomerate, Delhaize le Lion, owns 50.3 percent of Food Lion's voting stock and 44.3 percent of its non-voting stock, Mozingo said at the company's Salisbury, N.C. headquarters.

In a prepared statement this week, Food Lion said it opens 100 stores a year, creating more than 5,000 jobs a year and could not do so without paying competitive wages and benefits.

``How ironic it is on this Labor Day weekend for a union leader to call for the destruction of more than 45,000 jobs of Food Lion employees in retaliation for their desire to remain union free,' the statement said.

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