Union strikes at brewery in Halethorpe

July 02, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

More than 300 union workers at the G. Heileman Brewing Co. Inc. in Halethorpe went on strike yesterday after soundly rejecting a new contract with a 50-cent hourly wage increase over three years.

Management of the brewery said that it is bringing in replacements to maintain production during this period of heavy demand.

No negotiations are scheduled between the company and Teamsters Local 1010. Union members voted 186-19 Sunday to reject the company's final offer.

The old three-year contract expired at midnight Sunday.

The 30-year-old brewery on Hollins Ferry Road produces Colt .45 and Powermaster malt liquors; Carling's Black Label; National Premium, Schmidt's and other beers for the LaCrosse, Wis., company, which has been in bankruptcy since January.

Raymond Machlinski, Local 1010 president, said that workers rejected the company proposal because "the last two contracts we got inferior wages and this one is not anywhere near the inflation rate."

Brewers and bottlers now earn about $13.30 an hour, which the union leader said is $1 an hour less than wages paid at other Heileman breweries.

The union, which has represented the brewery workers since 1973, staged a 13-week strike in 1985.

Three years ago, the union worked three weeks without a contract to reach a new agreement.

"We are disappointed" with the union's reaction to "a responsible and fair proposal," said Foster Walton, vice president of operations in Heileman's Wisconsin headquarters.

The brewery, which normally operates 24 hours daily in summer, will use temporary workers and salaried staff to maintain production, Mr. Walton said.

Mr. Machlinski said the slow pace of bargaining indicated that the brewer expected a strike and that it advertised for replacement workers prior to the contract's expiration.

Teamsters members will get $200 a week in strike benefits after the first two weeks, raised from $45 weekly by the union's national convention last week.

Heileman, the nation's fifth largest brewer, was the target of a two-week strike at its Seattle brewery last month in a wage dispute.

Police reported no problems along the picket line set up outside the southwestern Baltimore County brewery.

The Teamsters said that members of the Machinists and Electrical Workers unions were not crossing the picket lines.

In addition to wage levels, Mr. Machlinski said that other unresolved contract issues included pension contributions and health and welfare benefits.

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