Judge signs restraining order against strikers

June 04, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

A judge signed a temporary restraining order Tuesday to prevent striking Garden State Tanning workers from interfering with the company's business.

Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III also ordered management and union officials to go back to the bargaining table within 48 hours.

In granting the automotive leather manufacturer's request for a restraining order, Boone said he was trying to protect the safety of people on both sides of the picket line.


"We want to make sure it's orderly," he said after a closed-door meeting in his chambers Tuesday afternoon with company lawyer Steven Redding of Hagerstown.

Attorney William Proctor of Hagerstown represented the union's 750 local Garden State workers via telephone, Boone said. Proctor did not return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Garden State Tanning alleged in court documents that since Sunday, union members have barred access to the company's three Washington County facilities and harassed employees and customers attempting to get in.

Pickets have "repeatedly harassed GST employees by, among other things, standing on the cars of employees attempting to enter plaintiff's premises; approaching employees in their cars; screaming profanities at and otherwise verbally threatening, harassing and intimidating delivery drivers, blocking employees' entrance into the facility and use of facility parking," court documents said.

Robert Hinkle, international representative for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, has denied the allegations.

Washington County sheriff's deputies, who have been patrolling the picket lines, have not made any arrests, said Sgt. Travers Ruppert.

Boone ordered Garden State Tanning to pay for at least two sheriff's deputies at each picket location.

Garden State has two manufacturing plants in Williamsport - at 15717 Clear Spring Road and at 9912 Governor Lane Blvd. The company's headquarters is at 13712 Crayton Blvd. in Maugansville.

Boone's order bars the union from:

  • Preventing anyone from entering or leaving company property by mass picketing, violence, trespass, breaches of the peace, intimidation, coercion or threats.

  • Obstructing the entrances to the company's facilities.

  • Interfering with the company's operations.

  • Allowing more than 10 pickets at a parking lot or entrance.

  • Parking more than two vehicles in the picket area.

  • Trespassing.

  • Following or surrounding employees or suppliers to keep them from entering the company's facilities.

The restraining order took effect immediately and will remain until either party requests a hearing or until both parties agree.

Anyone who violates the order could be subject to fines, jail time or both, Boone said.

Since the strike began at midnight Saturday, no one has been hurt and no property has been damaged, Redding said.

"Essentially, what we're trying to do is put a damper on things before they get out of hand. We're certainly not trying to infringe on their right to picket," he said.

Company President and Chief Executive Officer Mark D. Lecher issued a statement saying he was pleased with Boone's decision.

Lecher maintains that the company's final contract offer was not clearly communicated to workers.

Workers say they went on strike because the company has not offered sufficient pay, pension or health-care benefits.

During the work slowdown caused by the strike, the company has sent production work to other facilities to ensure a continuous supply of leather, Lecher's statement said.

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