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Strike looms at local plant

August 17, 1998|By MATTHEW BIENIEK

Local union members overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer by Good Humor-Breyer's Ice Cream Sunday in a vote that sets the stage for a possible strike at the ice cream plant on Frederick Street in Hagerstown, a union leader said.

"The next step is preparation for a strike," said Larry Lorshbaugh, President of Local 9386, United Steelworkers of America. Lorshbaugh was not sure when a strike would begin. He said negotiations with the company are continuing.

Good Humor-Breyer's Ice Cream management could not be reached Sunday for comment.

The Frederick Street plant makes Klondike Bars, Popsicles, and novelty ice creams, Lorshbaugh said.

Members voted 280-12 to reject the company's contract offer, Lorshbaugh said. A previous contract offer was unanimously rejected by union members Aug. 3, he said.

Union members also authorized a strike Aug. 3, Lorshbaugh said.

There are 431 union members working at the plant, he said.

Negotiations on a new contract began May 2, he said. The existing three-year contract expired Aug. 3, with the union agreeing to an extension until Aug. 11, he said.

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Good Humor-Breyer's workers unionized in April 1995.

Issues including wages, vacations, the use of temporary workers and benefits are in dispute, Lorshbaugh said.

Lorshbaugh still hopes an agreement can be reached to avoid a strike.

Workers were disappointed by the company contract offer because they have worked hard and set production records in the plant in the past year, he said.

"They admit our plant makes more profit than the other plants, but they want to give us less," said Deb Crowl of Hagerstown, a plant employee for 13 years.

Crowl said workers also were upset by increases in health insurance premiums despite no increase in group insurance rates for the company by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the company's health insurance carrier.

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