Leather workers lose jobs

90 jobs Garden State Tanning moved to Fleetwood, Pa., during a nine-day strike will not return to Williamsport, the union says.

90 jobs Garden State Tanning moved to Fleetwood, Pa., during a nine-day strike will not return to Williamsport, the union says.

June 11, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

Some Garden State Tanning workers came off strike this week only to learn that their jobs were being eliminated, a union official said Wednesday.

The automotive leather manufacturer permanently moved 90 cutting department jobs to the company's Fleetwood, Pa., plant, said Bob Hinkle, a representative for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Workers.

Garden State had transferred the work during the nine-day strike in Williamsport and the company refuses to return the work now that the strike is settled, Hinkle said.


Members of the 750-strong union ratified a new three-year contract Monday.

"I think they're being vindictive. There's no reason they can't bring the work back here," Hinkle said.

Company President and Chief Operating Officer Mark D. Lecher did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hinkle said the company called cutting department employees Tuesday to let them know about the layoffs. Those with seniority were given the opportunity to take jobs elsewhere in the plant, displacing employees with less seniority, he said.

Some employees were notified about the layoffs when they showed up for work, he said. Hinkle said the average cutting department employee makes about $14.50 an hour.

In addition to the 90 cutting department employees, another 100 Garden State employees have not been called back to work since the strike was settled, he said.

Those employees, who work in the finishing and wet end departments, are supposed to return to work this month or next month, he said.

Hinkle said he has been assured that those layoffs are temporary and workers will be notified when they are needed.

Employees at Garden State's two Williamsport plants went on strike June 1, immediately after a midnight deadline. Talks had broken down over issues of seniority, health insurance and pay.

Management and the union reached a compromise last week, after Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone ordered both sides back to the bargaining table.

In the area of seniority, the company agreed to continue the practice of choosing lead positions based on seniority, the union has said.

Management also made concessions on wages, giving pay raises to more job classifications, the union has said.

For health insurance, employees will be able to choose between keeping their current plan or switching to a managed-care plan that costs roughly the same, the union said.

The company had wanted to convert everyone to managed care, but workers who live in Pennsylvania and West Virginia were concerned about doctor availability, the union has said.

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