Good Humor-Breyers plant workers picket

March 18, 1999

Good Humor - Breyers protestBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY and KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writers

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

Union employees at the Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream plant in Hagerstown, who have been working without a contract, picketed in front of area stores selling their products Wednesday.

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Some 431 union members have been working without a contract at the Frederick Street ice cream plant since August 1998, said Larry Lorshbaugh, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 9386.

Lorshbaugh said the company has forced union members' hand by refusing to negotiate.

Lorshbaugh said he hopes that the picketing campaign will persuade management to resume talks with the union.

If not, "a work stoppage is always a possibility," he said. No date for a strike vote has been set.

Workers gathered Wednesday at the Martin's Food Market stores on Pennsylvania Avenue, Dual Highway and Valley Mall and at the Food Lion on Wilson Boulevard.


Lorshbaugh and other protesters left the County Market on West Hillcrest Road after supermarket employees told them "they don't allow soliciting," he said.

Union workers targeted area food stores that sell company products such as Klondike Bars and Popsicles.

Union Vice President Dennis Broadwater and two other workers stood in front of the Martin's Food Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, passing out fliers and informing shoppers of their contract situation on Wednesday evening.

"We've received a lot of support," said Broadwater.

A machine operator, he said he has worked at the plant for 13 years and earns $30,000 a year. With three shifts in operation, the plant's average worker makes $25,000 annually, he said.

Broadwater said workers will be at the supermarkets at various times during the day for as long as it takes.

"We'll picket until we get a contract," he said.

"We hope it will be a success," said handpacker Sharon Mason of Clear Spring. "We don't like working without a contract."

"Or having one forced on you," said Amy Kearns, of Falling Waters, W.Va., who also is a handpacker.

"It's an unfortunate situation," Plant Manager Dean Palmer said.

Palmer said the plant is operating under the terms of a company contract proposal that union workers rejected. He said the terms are "competitive in the industry and the local market."

Citing corporate policy, Palmer refused to discuss details of the negotiations.

"The company has implemented its final offer," Lorshbaugh said. "It's not acceptable."

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

The union outlined its concerns in a flier distributed to shoppers on Wednesday.

The flier said plant workers set production records but cannot negotiate higher pension benefits.

In addition, Lorshbaugh and the union workers allege that their retirement plan has $764,789,700 in assets and is overfunded. Union members want Good Humor-Breyers to add .01 more into their pensions above the formula used to calculate their retirement.

The pension plan has not been changed in 10 years, he said.

They also say the plant does not abide by terms of the Family Medical Leave Act and is overzealous in its drug-testing policy.

Palmer refused to respond to the union's specific concerns.

Lorshbaugh said the picketing was more than a symbolic gesture.

"It's the beginning of a corporate campaign," he said. "It will be getting bigger and bigger."

The regional protest movement that began Wednesday with the union local and locals in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas will spread across the country, Lorshbaugh predicted.

Workers at the Good Humor-Breyers plant unionized in April 1995.

Negotiations started in May 1998 for a contract that expired in August of that year. Union members unanimously rejected a company offer made on Aug. 3, and voted 280-12 against another offer made on Aug. 11.

At the request of both parties, the Federal Mediation Service assigned a mediator in September.

Palmer said the mediator was used until negotiations ended on Nov. 1.

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