Strikers may return to tannery on Monday

June 08, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Striking workers at Garden State Tanning could go back to work as early as Monday night now that management and union officials have reached a tentative deal.

Union officials will explain the contract offer to employees at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday at the American Legion in Williamsport. Voting will follow.

Many of the 750 union employees at the company's automotive leather manufacturing plants in Williamsport walked off the job at midnight last Saturday, saying the company has not offered sufficient pay, pension or health-care benefits.


After meeting with management from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, a union negotiating team came up with a compromise it unanimously will recommend to its members, said Bob Hinkle, international representative for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees.

If the contract is ratified, employees could be back to work Monday night, he said.

"The company wants the people back as soon as possible and obviously we do, too," he said.

Company President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Lecher said Friday afternoon he was optimistic that union members would agree with union leadership and ratify the contract.

Lecher and Hinkle declined to provide details of the proposed contract, but Hinkle said management compromised on issues of pay and seniority.

Some job classes will receive more money and others will receive less, he said.

Company officials had wanted to disregard seniority and appoint leaders for each department, union officials have said.

On Tuesday, Washington County Circuit Court Judge Kennedy Boone ordered both sides back to the bargaining table. At the request of the company, Boone also signed a temporary restraining order in an effort to keep peace on the picket lines.

In court documents, Garden State Tanning accused striking workers of harassing management and union employees of crossing the picket lines. The union denied the allegations.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office said Friday morning that the picket lines deputies have been patrolling have remained calm and there have been no arrests.

Garden State Tanning 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.

Strikers will continue to picket the company until a contract is ratified, Hinkle said.

Staff writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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