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W.Va. wildcat strike costs 10 their jobs

April 22, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Ten workers at Howard Delivery Service Inc. were dismissed Monday following a wildcat strike at the company Sunday night, officials said.

Workers at the trucking company, located just west of Martinsburg off W.Va. 9, walked off their jobs over what they claimed were unfair working conditions.

Workers said about 70 employees walked out, but management put the figure closer to 20.

The strike fizzled when the workers' union - General Teamsters and Allied Workers of Hagerstown - said they could not bargain with the company.

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Linden E. Heavner, secretary and treasurer for the union, said the strike was not sanctioned by the union. Outside the company Monday morning, Heavner pleaded with workers to return to their jobs before others were dismissed.

"They're going to close the place up if we don't go back to work," said Brad Lemen, shop steward for the union.

Howard Delivery Service, which has been operating here for 14 years, distributes car parts from the General Motors plant in Martinsburg to dealerships in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina.

The trucking company, which employs about 90 people and has about 40 tractor-trailers, is located next to the GM plant off W.Va. 9 between Martinsburg and Hedgesville.

Among a list of complaints, workers were upset over the company's use of a specially designed computers in the trucks.

The machines allow customers to track their orders as they are being shipped in the trucks. But workers claimed plant officials were using the machines to determine if drivers were spending too much time at dealerships.

Workers said another employee had his pay docked after he took too long to do his job.

Workers declined to talk about the situation individually because they feared how it might affect their future at the firm.

"These guys are just terrible to deal with," said one worker.

Gene Leonard, president of Howard Delivery Service, said workers may feel they are being harrassed by the computers in the trucks, but the machines are needed to do business with General Motors.

General Motors is striving to provide the best dealership service in the industry, and the computers are vital to the process, Leonard said.

Leonard said many of the workers who participated in the strike came from another trucking comany. "I think they just wanted to test the waters," Leonard said.

Leonard said a video camera at the plant showed about 20 workers walked off the job outside the plant about 12:01 a.m. Monday. Ten of the workers will not be reprimanded because they either were off-duty at the time or they had good records at the company, Leonard said.

The remaining 10 workers were "voluntarily terminated" because they did not come to work, Leonard said.

The 10 workers have filed grievances with the Teamsters claiming unjust discharges, said Heavner. Heavner said he is hopeful the workers will be able to regain their positions.

Heavner could not comment in detail about the workers' complaints. He said there was no grounds for a strike at the firm.

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