Cumberland Times-News

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October 5, 2012

Milk union workers in fourth week of strike

Mayor: City ‘does not have a direct role’ in dispute

CUMBERLAND — Local employees on strike against Potomac Farms Dairy remain united as the strike continues through a fourth week, union officials said. The strike began Sept. 12.

“We’ll be out as long as it takes ... the workers are strong and vigilant,” said Teamster Local 453 President Larry Wolfe. Wolfe also said the community has shown strong support for the strike. Several local businesses have placed signs in their windows supporting the strikers.

The union has not heard from the company since the strike began, Wolfe said.

City officials are concerned, but they do not plan direct involvement.

“The city has thus far not played a role and does not have a direct role,” said Mayor Brian Grim. “This is a matter for negotiation and we respect the negotiation process. However, I hope that the parties can sit down together and come to a resolution.”

While the city plays no direct role, Grim said, “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.”

County officials similarly have not been in contact with either side and don’t intend to get involved.

“I honestly believe it is between management and labor,” said Allegany County Commission President Michael McKay. McKay added that he would not want either the company or the union getting involved in the county’s negotiations with its employees.

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, Wolfe said.

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.

Union members rejected that offer by a 90 percent margin and also took a vote authorizing a strike, also with 90 percent support.

In June, the company “imposed” its final offer, Wolfe has said. Issues include company contributions to an employee pension plan, wage retroactivity and holiday pay.

The Galliker Dairy Co. of Johnstown, Pa., owns the Potomac Farms Dairy operation.

The company acquired Potomac Farms Dairy in March 1984, according to the company website.

The plant has won a number of awards over the years, most recently from the prestigious Quality Chekd Dairies Inc. trade organization.

Repeated requests for comment by  company officials have resulted in no response.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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