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September 13, 2012

Dairy workers strike in Md.

CUMBERLAND, Md. — After nearly a day on strike, Teamster’s Local 453 hadn’t heard a word from Galliker’s/Potomac Farms Dairy, local president Larry Wolfe said Thursday.  

Galliker Dairy Co. of Johns­town owns the Potomac Farms Dairy operation. Galliker acquired Potomac Farms Dairy in March 1984, according to the company website.

“We sent the company a 48-hour strike notice Monday,” Wolfe said.

The picket line started about 8 p.m. Wednesday.  

The mood on the picket line is good and union members are united, Wolfe said Thursday.

The union represents 55 work­ers at the dairy in Cumberland and others working in Oakland, Moorefield, W.Va., and Culpeper and Broadway, Va., he said.

Wolfe said the previous contract expired at the end of February 2011, but both sides agreed to continue negotiations.

In May, the company made its final offer, he said. Union members rejected that offer by a 90 percent margin and took a vote authorizing a strike, also with 90 percent support.

In June, the company “imposed” its final offer, Wolfe said. The worst part of the offer was that the company stopped contributing to the employee pension plans, Wolfe said. The union members also are concerned that there’s no retroactivity for wages for the 15 1⁄2 months spent in negotiations and no holiday pay, he said.

“We’ve had great public support,’ Wolfe said Thursday.

As he spoke near the picket line, drivers beeped their horns in support of the strikers.

“We’ve had no union employees cross the picket line,” Wolfe said, and it didn’t appear there were any operations at the plant.

Wolfe said the Teamsters have represented the workers at the dairy for a long time. Several union members have worked there at least 25 years.

Overall, Local 453 represents more than 500 workers at about 35 employers in the four-state region, he said.

Galliker “distributes its products including milk, iced tea and ice cream throughout major portions of central and western Pennsylvania and Maryland and parts of Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina,” according to the company’s website.

Three separate messages left at Galliker Dairy corporate headquarters were not returned Thursday. An email also did not receive a response.

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

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