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Redland strike ends

August 27, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

WILLIAMSPORT - Union workers at Redland Brick Inc. voted Thursday evening to accept a contract, ending a strike that lasted nearly 10 weeks.

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By a vote of about 43 to 28, members of Teamsters Local 992 approved the contract, which was the fourth offer made by Redland, said Glenn Jordan, union shop steward.

The Williamsport plant's 108 workers had been on strike since their contract expired June 18. Workers had said the chief sticking points had been in the areas of vacation and medical insurance.

Jordan said he voted for the contract because "it was the wise thing to do . We had to get something settled."

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There was no clear victor said Jordan. "We both gave something to get something."

Redland President and CEO James Vinke said plant managers were preparing a work schedule Thursday evening.

"Although all the parties suffered greatly from the unfortunate and ill-advised strike at our Cushwa plant, we are extremely satisfied with the terms of our new contract with the Teamsters Union," said Vinke in a statement he read during a phone conversation.

He did not elaborate on the terms of the contract.

Eight striking workers crossed the picket line about two weeks ago and 20 more were prepared to do so, he said.

"Things were starting to fall apart. A lot of guys were not prepared for the strike and we thought it would end a lot sooner," Jordan said.

The new contract takes effect Sept. 1 and will expire in December 2004.

Two of the three workers who had been fired during the strike will be rehired as part of the deal.

The third worker resigned.

The company agreed to change the vacation policy to limit senior employees with four weeks of vacation to schedule only two weeks of time off at any one time. That will give new employees an opportunity to take vacations during the summer months, he said.

Retired workers will be able to purchase health insurance through the company's plan until they turn 65 and their Medicare goes into effect, he said.

Jordan said he was disappointed in the size of the raises workers will receive under the contract. Most will get 50 cents, some will get up a $1, while others will get nothing, he said.

Jordan said he was upset that replacement workers will retain their jobs when the union workers return because that will leave some newly hired union workers idle.

"The company achieved a number of key goals that are important to the long-term future of our business, while at the same time, our workers will continue to enjoy some of the highest wages and benefits paid in this area, " Vinke said.

"Unfortunately for our workers, they would have been far better off economically if they had accepted our original offer June 17," he said.

The plant's kilns were shut down after workers walked out and no new bricks were manufactured during most of the summer, which is the industry's busiest time.

The company began hiring replacement workers earlier this month after strikers refused to accept a previous offer.

The company had expected to have 30 to 40 permanent replacements hired to start manufacturing bricks by last week.

The plant's brick production is in its early stages and union workers will brought back as needed, Vinke said.

Jordan, who has worked at the plant for 10 years, said he was relieved the strike was over.

He said the company likely will bring the maintenance workers back to work first to prime machinery for production, he said.

Teamsters picketed the Clear Spring Road plant 24-hours a day during what was one of the hottest summers ever for Washington County.

Jordan thanked all those who supported the strikers and donated money, food and other supplies.

The company contracted with Washington County Sheriff's deputies to guard the plant day and night during the strike. A private security force videotaped the strikers.

The situation grew acrimonious in July, and Redland took the union to court asking for a restraining order against picketers, whom the company alleged had threatened and intimidated employees. A replacement worker testified that Teamsters threw rocks and shot at his truck.

Union representatives denied involvement in such activities.

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone issued the restraining order and later added monetary fines for violations.

On Aug. 4, gasoline or a similar substance was placed around the front entrance to the Redland administrative offices and an attempt was made to light it with a candle. That same day, a chemical explosive device was thrown at a Washington County Sheriff's Department cruiser and exploded nearby.

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