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Ice cream plant workers call move 'greedy'

June 09, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream plant workers who were told Tuesday the plant will close in 2011 said the move was greedy and that the closing is part of a troubling trend of good-paying jobs disappearing from the region.

Supply Leader Ken Wells said in a letter to employees that operational costs were high in Hagerstown, but workers said no study was ever offered that backed up the claim.

Workers said another reason the plant closing does not make any sense is because the plant -- from their perspective -- was doing well and that there were signs posted in the plant about the company's goal to earn another $2 billion within a year's time.

Workers crowded around a news reporter about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the plant's parking lot and vented their frustrations about the company.

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Plant worker Scott Lorshbaugh snapped his fingers repeatedly, demonstrating how quickly a machine he operates in the plant makes Popsicles.

The company is able to make a dozen Popsicles for about 14 cents and sells them for $3, Lorshbaugh said.

"They're booming," Lorshbaugh said of the company's sales.

When the United Steelworkers organized workers at the plant in 1995, the company made $70 million annually in ice cream sales, said union representative Larry Lorshbaugh, Scott Lorshbaugh's uncle.

This year, the company is probably going to take in close to $200 million in profits, Larry Lorshbaugh said.

Some of the workers who will be laid off from the plant were victims of plant shutdowns at Fleetwood Travel Trailers in Hancock and Garden State Tanning in Williamsport, Larry Lorshbaugh said.

One of those people is Bob Pack of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., who lost his job at Fleetwood Travel Trailers.

Pack said he was told when he was hired at the Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream plant that he did not have to worry about losing his job because there had not been any layoffs there in more than 20 years.

Plant worker Greg Cosens said he was also told to not worry about layoffs.

"They said, 'look at all the nice cars out here,'" said Cosens, pointing across the park lot.

Scott Lorshbaugh said the closing of businesses like the local ice cream plant, Garden State Tanning and Fleetwood Travel Trailers will start to deteriorate the quality of life locally because of the loss of good-paying jobs.

Larry Lorshbaugh said stores popped up around the Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream plant during prosperous times.

"I think it's important for people to start understanding that unions are not what's hurting America. Greedy, rotten corporations are what's hurting America. They're the ones taking the money away," Larry Lorshbaugh said.

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