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Union gears for strike at Garden State Tanning

June 01, 2003|By JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

More than 700 Garden State Tanning workers were expected to go on strike after midnight Saturday following a vote by union members earlier in the day to reject a counteroffer from the automotive leather manufacturer, union officials said.

Around 100 union members will picket at company's two plants in the Williamsport area, said Bobby Colvin, president of Local 658T for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

Union and company officials negotiated Friday with few changes made, Colvin said.

Saturday morning, union officials presented the company's counteroffer to between 550 and 600 union members, Colvin said. The members overwhelmingly voted to reject the offer, setting the stage for a strike when the current five-year contract expired at midnight, he said.

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Union members had voted on Thursday to strike, said Bob Hinkle, a representative of UNITE International.

The two sides had not resumed negotiations by about 8:15 p.m. Saturday and wouldn't unless company officials called the union, Hinkle said.

Company officials could not be reached for comment Saturday night. A man who answered the phone at Garden State Tanning said there was no one there to comment on the negotiations.

The main point of contention, union officials said, is that the company's contract offer would cut piece rate workers' pay by the equivalent of $4 to $6 an hour and give the savings to other union employees, Hinkle has said.

Other sticking points are that the pension plan would close in favor of a 401(k) plan, a high co-payment for health insurance would be instituted, and company officials want to disregard seniority and appoint leaders for each department, union officials said.

Colvin said company officials lowered the co-payment amount and came up a nickel an hour on wages.

Washington County Sheriff's Department Cpl. James Grimm said a few deputies will be stationed at Garden State's plants at midnight as a precaution to keep the peace. The plants are on Clear Spring Road and Governor Lane Boulevard.

The company, which called the Sheriff's Department, will pay for the overtime for those officers, Grimm said.

Colvin said union officials told union members they want a peaceful picket.

"We want it to be professional," he said.

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