Protesters to resume picket if union member not hired

March 09, 1999

Union ProtestersBy JULIE E. GREENE and DAN KULIN / Staff Writers

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Picketing near a Hagerstown construction site was postponed for today, but representatives of a union for heavy equipment operators are threatening to resume their protest unless one of their members is hired onto the job.

For almost six hours Tuesday, about a dozen union members stood in the cold and snow protesting the hiring practices of G.M. McCrossin, a Bellefonte, Pa., firm the City of Hagerstown hired to complete an $8.5 million upgrade of Hagerstown's sewer operations.

There are currently four heavy equipment operators working on the project.

Randy Appel, an organizer from the Cumberland, Md., office of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local No. 37, which organized Tuesday's picket, said they want at least one of the operators to be a member of their union.


Union and company officials are expected to talk by telephone this afternoon.

"We've decided not to picket until after we talk to the owner," Appel said.

G.M. McCrossin official Robert Leahey Jr. declined to say whether he thought the talks would lead to the hiring of one of the union members.

"Everything's up in the air right now," Leahey said.

Union members began picketing at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday at the entrances to the construction site off Frederick Street and to the Water Pollution Control Department off Bowman Avenue.

They left the site at about 2 p.m., Appel said.

G.M. McCrossin was the low bidder for the project intended to help improve the environment for aquatic life in the Chesapeake Bay, said Rick Thomas, Hagerstown Water Pollution Control Department manager.

Work on the biologic nutrient removal project began in June 1998 and is expected to be done in May 2000. The entire project is expected to cost the city $10.7 million, Thomas said.

"It's strictly the contractor's responsibility to make any arrangements he needs to make as far as labor goes," Thomas said.

G.M. McCrossin has hired union carpenters, laborers, electricians and pipe fitters, but has not hired union members to operate equipment such as backhoes, Appel said.

Tracy Gardner, another G.M. McCrossin official, said the company was contacted by many unions but not the local heavy equipment operators union when they began hiring workers for the project.

Appel said union representatives have talked with G.M. McCrossin officials in the past "but it just hasn't worked out."

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