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Hearings are held for Garden State workers on pay dispute

July 31, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Garden State Tanning employees probably will have to wait at least another month before a dispute over their unemployment pay is resolved, their lawyer said Wednesday.

A state official took 21/2 hours of testimony Wednesday on 178 unemployment claims, some of which date back to May, said William Proctor, an attorney hired by the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Workers.

L. Paul Snyder, a lawyer for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Board of Appeals, is not expected to issue a written ruling on the claims until late August, Proctor said.

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Snyder closed the hearing to the public, citing the potential for personnel issues to arise.

The union wanted an open hearing, Proctor said.

Before the hearing, company officials who would not give their names declined to comment. Garden State President and Chief Operating Officer Mark D. Lecher did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Proctor said the company presented two witnesses and he presented one, union President Bobby Colvin.

Company officials argued that some employees were not eligible for unemployment because of a strike that lasted from June 1 to June 10, but they could not name which individuals among the 178 were not at work solely because of the strike, Proctor said.

Since the strike ended, many of the company's 750 workers have been working overtime at the two production plants in Williamsport, employees said.

Other employees still are laid off and not receiving unemployment checks.

"It's not fun. I've got two months rent due tomorrow," said James M. Burdett, 35, of Hagerstown.

He said the family is trying to get by on his wife's paycheck.

Bill Coughlin, 47, of Halfway, said he's had to borrow money from the bank account of his 3-year-old daughter Hannah to make ends met.

Snyder gave Michael Taylor, a lawyer with the Maryland Office of Unemployment Insurance, until Aug. 11 to submit written testimony in the case, Proctor said.

Proctor and the company have until Aug. 25 to respond to Taylor's comments.

When Snyder makes his decision, either the company or the employees can appeal it to the Appeals Board. A second appeal can be made to Washington County Circuit Court, Proctor said.

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