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Ice cream plant workers stage 'peaceful protest'

April 13, 1999

Good Humor-BryersBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Union workers carried signs and walked along the highway outside Good Humor-Bryers Ice Cream plant in Hagerstown Tuesday in what they called a peaceful protest.

About 341 union employees have been working without a contract since August, according to Larry Lorshbaugh, president of United Steelworkers of America Local 9386.

Since their contracts expired, the workers' negotiations have stalled. Plant Manager Dean Palmer said the company made a final offer in November.

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"We feel it is competitive in the industry," he said.

Palmer said he could not comment on the specific items in dispute. "We choose not to negotiate through the media," he said.

Both sides are trying to re-open negotiations.

The dispute centers around seven specific contract items, according to Lorshbaugh. For example, workers want to be able to take unpaid time off for injuries under the Family and Medical Leave Act, he said.

The company considers such days paid vacation time, according to Lorshbaugh. He contends Byers also aggressively tests workers for drugs.

The union consented to having those who contribute to accidents tested. The company now tests everyone involved, including bystanders, Lorshbaugh said.

According to him, 40 workers have been tested but none were found to be under the influence.

Throughout the day, hundreds of workers walked along the road carrying signs that read, "we will walk the walk until you talk the talk" and "solidarity." At 5 p.m. they held a rally in a nearby field.

Lorshbaugh said the demonstration was not a strike or a picket line. "We want them to come back to the table and be fair with us," he said.

Negotiations with a mediator are scheduled for May 9.

Claude Hall, assistant director of Steelworkers District 8, praised the workers' courage.

"I think what they want is really just fair things," he said. "It's not like they're asking an arm and a leg."

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