From Staff Reports
CUMBERLAND — School cafeterias in Mineral County poured milk from jugs when their supply of kid-size cartons was cut off as a result of cancellation of a milk contract by Potomac Farms Dairy.
The milk pour only lasted for about a week when the schools relied on Martin’s Food Markets for milk for school breakfasts and lunches.
The contracts with several West Virginia counties were canceled as a strike at the Cumberland dairy continued. The strike by Teamsters Local 453 began Sept. 12.
Though, the school system had to scramble when the contract was terminated on Oct. 12, the children never were without milk, said Becky Schneider, Mineral County’s child nutrition director.
“We worked out an agreement with Martin’s and then a contract with United Dairy in Fairmont,” said Schneider. “We have to have milk to make a meal reimburseable (by the federal government),” Schneider said. Mineral County serves about 2,000 children breakfast and 3,500 children lunch.
While milk deliveries continue to Berkeley County, contracts were canceled in Hampshire, Jefferson, Morgan, Hardy and Grant counties, Schneider said. Allegany and Garrett County have not been affected by the strike.
According to reports in the Hampshire Review, Regional Education Service Agency 8 is attempting to coordinate a milk contract for all of the affected counties.
A call to RESA 8 Executive Director Jane Lynch was not returned by press time.
City and county officials have said they don’t plan to get involved in the strike. However, Mayor Brian Grim has expressed concern about the situation.
“I remain concerned about the impact this strike has on our community and the impact on our citizens who work there. I am hopeful that the dairy company will meet with the employees to discuss a resolution,” Grim has told the Times-News.
The union represents 55 workers at the dairy in Cumberland and others working in Oakland, Moorefield, W.Va., and Culpeper and Broadway, Va. Overall, Local 453 represents more than 500 workers at about 35 employers in the four-state region.
A previous contract expired at the end of February 2011, but both sides verbally agreed to continue negotiations. In May, the company made its final offer.
In June, the company “imposed” its final offer, union officials have said. Issues include company contributions to an employee pension plan, wage retroactivity and holiday pay.
Repeated requests for comment by company officials have resulted in no response.