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Strike of Cemetery Workers Forces Orthodox Jews to Dig Graves

Orthodox Jewish families in the New York area are being forced to dig graves for their deceased because of a strike by a cemetery workers union which went into its third day today with no signs of a settlement.

The 1,700 strikers are members of Cemetery Workers and Greens Attendants Local 365 who rejected Monday a proposed three-year contract and threw picket lines around 13 Jewish cemeteries and 12 Catholic and 14 non-sectarian burial grounds. Because Jewish religious law requires early burial, the prospect was that more Jewish families would have to do their own grave-digging if the strike was not settled soon.

Five such burials took place yesterday at the Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, L.I. Similar grave-digging by families took place at several of the other struck Jewish cemeteries. The strike affects cemeteries in New York City, Long Island and Westchester.

State Mediation Board officials conferred with both sides yesterday and scheduled more mediation talks today. The contract, which was approved by union officers, but not by the membership, would have given the union members wage increases of $5 weekly over each of the three years, increases in their life insurance plus improved hospital and medical coverage, pensions and vacations. Their weekly pay now ranges from $108.50 and $118.50.

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