A straw dummy accompanies a sign erected in May across the street from Tri-County Industries, proclaiming unionized workers' desire for a new contract. Negotiations have been ongoing for the past nine months and employees say there will be consequences if a contract is not reached by Sept. 15.

After nine months of negotiating, Tri-County Industries employees still do not have a new contract with management.

“In all reality, it’s time to get this done,” Tri-County employee Jim Bice said.

Bice currently serves as president of a three-member council elected by fellow Tri-County employees to negotiate a contract with management officials.

Tri-County Industries employees voted to unionize with United Steelworkers, out of Pittsburgh, in December 2006. In January 2007, employees elected Bice as their president, Tim Simpson as their recording secretary and Wayne Shorts as their head unit griever.

Negotiations with Tri-County management began shortly after the officers were elected. But according to Bice, negotiations have been going “very slow.”

“We want to get this done by Sept. 15 or there are going to be consequences,” Bice warned during a rally held across the street from Tri-County Industries on Aug. 31.

While Bice did not want to use the word “strike,” he added “that would basically be what it comes down to.”

“Nine months (of negotiations) is too long,” Bice continued. “The guys are growing impatient. USW is standing behind us 100 percent and they believe it’s taking too long also. This should have been settled a long time ago.”

While Bice acknowledged that negotiations have been fairly productive so far, he also believed management officials were going “slow on purpose.”

“They’re taking their good old sweet time,” Bice alleged. “They are trying to make it hard on us.”

According to Bice, the main holdup in negotiations has been the economics of the contract.

“It’s a touchy subject with this company,” Bice said. “They don’t want to part with money. I can’t say I don’t entirely blame them, but with the work we do, we deserve better insurance and better pay.”

Bice also alleged that unfair labor practices were ongoing at the waste removal and recycling plant. He said he would be filing three complaints with the National Labor Relations Board to address complaints of employees before the deadline of Sept. 15.

Confrontations between Tri-County management and USW began almost one year ago during USW’s organizing campaign.

On October 14, 2006, Tri-County general manager Gerald Bowser allegedly harassed local 1355 USW president John Kloos in front of Tri-County in Pine Township and proceeded to follow him in his car to Grove City Borough where he confronted him again.

Six days later, his son, Daniel Bowser, allegedly swerved his vehicle toward Kloos as he was handing out USW pamphlets to employees.

Mercer State Police filed harassment charges against the Bowsers, but both charges were subsequently dropped in Mercer district courts.

The following month, a sign supporting USW was torched just hours after it was erected by Tri-County employees on Nov. 5.

USW also filed six complaints against Tri-County Industries management during its organizing campaign. Charges included intimidation, surveillance, coercement and removal of union literature from company grounds.

In response, Tri-County management filed post-election objections with NLRB, contesting the results of the election in December that unionized Tri-County employees with USW.

Both sides subsequently dropped all charges against each other after a Jan. 3 meeting, in hopes of moving forward with contract negotiations.

But Bice said management officials have continued to be unfair to employees.

“It’s still the same crap constantly out of management,” Bice said. “It’s time to bring it to an end. Many of us have endured harassment, felt threatened and been stared down while simply attempting to do the jobs we are here to do.”

Bice said the three-member committee will meet again with Tri-County management on Sept. 11 and 12. He said he hoped the contract dispute would be settled by then.

“Throughout our negotiations, our goals have remained (the same): equal treatment for equal work and the same benefits as our sister company Vogel Industries (out of Mars, Pa.),” Bice said.

Vogel Industries has been unionized for the past 40 years and Bice said Tri-County employees just wanted the same equal treatment from management.

According to Bice, the two sides last met for three hours on Aug. 29.

“Hopefully by Sept. 12, we’ll have some results,” Bice said.

Calls to Tri-County Industries management were not returned.

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