The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

August 5, 2013

Somerset workers return to job

Justin Dennis

SOMERSET — After two days of negotiations between heavy equipment retailer Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co. and International Union of Operating Engineers, a new contract was forged and ratified at the end of last week.

The 275 union employees who had been striking since mid-July returned to work Monday morning.

“We’ve reached a mutually amicable agreement,” said Cleveland Brothers attorney Carl Tinkham. “The contract will run for three years.”

According to Tinkham, a federal mediator was called into the negotiation circle and helped both sides iron out the issue of retirement benefits.

“There were multiple options in terms of how benefits would be structured,” Tink-ham said.

Once both sides could agree on specific investment vehicles to be used, Tinkham said the rest of the negotiations fell into place.

One Pittsburgh group ratified the contract Thursday, and the groups from Somerset, Clearfield, Lantz Corners and Erie held votes at various times Friday, ratifying later that evening.

“At all eight locations, everyone returned to work, business as usual, to continue taking care of our customers Monday morning,” Tinkham said.

The strike began after two months of negotiations deadlocked and the most recent contract expired June 30.

According to the union’s attorney, Joshua Bloom, Cleveland Brothers was responsible for unfair labor practices and violations of the National Labor Relations Act during the negotiation proceedings.

He could not be reached for comment.

“We’re pleased both sides were able to agree on a contract offer and excited that everyone’s back to work as normal,” Tinkham said.