NEW CASTLE Mayor tries to end strike at city plant
The mayor wants workers to go back to work for a 'cooling-off' period.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Striking Universal-Rundle employees are hoping the mayor of New Castle can help end their weeklong work stoppage.
Workers have been picketing since midnight Oct. 15 in a dispute over wages and benefits. The New Castle plant employs about 100 people. Employees at two other plants in Georgia and Iowa are also on strike.
Mayor Timothy Fulkerson met Tuesday with Ed Erhardt, the president of Local 365 of the Glass Molders, Pottery, Plastics & amp; Allied Workers.
Erhardt said the mayor called the meeting to see if he could help the striking workers.
He has offered to inform company officials about state tax breaks and incentives that could free up money for wages and benefits for the employees, Erhardt said.
Fulkerson said he has contacted the Governor's Action Team, a group set up to help save jobs in Pennsylvania, for assistance with the situation.
"I don't want to see us lose these jobs or this plant in New Castle. I would like to see if we can get the people to come back to work in a cooling-off period and then work something out where everyone is a winner," Fulkerson said.
President in tough spot
Fulkerson said he's been in contact with Reed Byler, Universal-Rundle president, who spoke highly of the workers.
"But [Byler] is up against a wall. He's dealing with a plant that is very obsolete. It's hard to keep the numbers up when dealing with a plant in that situation," the mayor said.
Fulkerson said he's hoping the state can help the company make some upgrades at the plant to make it more profitable.
Fulkerson stressed that company officials have not threatened to close the plant, but he fears if the strike continues, the company will lose customers and eventually will have to close it.
Workers at all three plants rejected a six-year contract with the company, which was offering $200 bonuses in the first and third years and 15-cent-per-hour increases in the pact's second and fourth years. Workers said they were offered no wage increases in the last two years of the contract.
Erhardt said there have been no negotiations with the company since workers went on strike.
Company spokesman Steve Golimowski also said nothing has changed since last week.
"We've made a couple proposals and we are waiting for them to make one. They've walked out and not responded," he added.