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Alana Roberts


Linen Company Says Service Will Continue in Strike

4 Jan 2005

By Alana Roberts, Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS -- Linen service will continue for many local hotels and restaurants as truck drivers at Mission Industries continue to strike, a spokesman for the company said.

However, a leader of Teamsters Local 14, the union that represents the drivers, said the company is having trouble servicing its customers properly because of the strike.

The truck drivers have been on strike since Friday after they rejected two contract offers from the company and voted to strike, Gary Mauger, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 14, said. He said Friday's vote to approve a strike was 80 to 12.

Negotiations began in November and the contract expired on Friday.

David Spurlock Jr., corporate counsel of Mission Industries, declined to specify whether the company has hired replacement workers or is using managers to replace the striking workers.

"The only thing I can tell you is the company is operating," Spurlock said. "It is operating effectively, we're on schedule and we're continuing to service our customers. We hope our employees come back. We're not hiring permanent replacement workers."

Mauger said the company is using workers from other plants and managers to do the work left by the striking drivers. However, he said the strike is having an effect on the company's ability to do that safely. He said there is a shortage of qualified commercial truck drivers in the Las Vegas Valley and that the company is two days behind in its deliveries.

"They're doing what they've got to do," Mauger said. "They've already had people on trucks that don't know how to drive. A couple of them have had accidents."

He said the company has been dropping off clean linens to its customers but not picking up soiled linens at some locations.

"We know they're not picking up at some of the hotels," Mauger said. "We know the way the linen chutes are stacked up to the 20th plus floor."

Spurlock declined to comment on Mauger's allegations about the accidents. He said not all of the drivers walked off of their jobs. Mauger said he knows of three people who crossed the picket line.

The union represents 111 workers at the company's three locations. Mauger said the company's three-year contract proposal would result in the workers' making $201 a month in contributions to their health care by the end of the contract, on top of the $54 a month they're already making in contributions.

The drivers make $19.17 an hour. Mauger said the union offered to make 50 percent of the contributions for health care costs, however the company is asking them to make 70 percent of the contributions.

Spurlock declined to comment on those figures. He said the workers' health care plan is a union health plan and that the union determines how much rates for health care will go up. Mauger said the plan is regulated by the U.S. Labor Department and the Internal Revenue Service and the union is charged with making sure the plan is solvent.

Spurlock said the company is willing to go back to the bargaining table.

"For us we're waiting for them to make us an offer," Spurlock said. "We made the last proposal when they went out on strike. We suggested we continue speaking and that was something the union didn't choose to do."

Mauger said the union is also willing to go back to the bargaining table, but that the company must come up with a better proposal.

"It's not our function to strike," Mauger said. "We try to get things settled through negotiations and dialogue. We're ready to sit down if and when they're ready to sit down."

Spurlock said when the company made its most recent offer, company leaders were expecting a counteroffer and not a strike. Mauger said union negotiators informed the company when negotiations began in November that the union was going to either accept the offer or reject it and strike by Friday when the contract expired.

Mauger said the union chose not to extend the contract and continue negotiations because of the pressure the New Year's Day holiday and the International Consumer Electronics Show set to begin Thursday would put on the company to settle. He said so far there are no more plans for continued negotiations.

Mauger said the union has also implemented ambulatory pickets, where picketers will follow trucks hauling linen to a customer's premises and picket that customer for as long as the truck is there. Mauger said the ambulatory pickets are designed to place pressure on Mission Industries' customers to force the company back to the bargaining table.

"I don't care who they are, whether it's a casino or a convenience store," Mauger said. "It's designed to get them upset to the point they call Mission Industries and say, 'Hey look, we don't want any picket signs out here.' "

Lesley Pittman, a spokeswoman for Station Casinos, one of Mission Industry's customers, said Station Casinos hasn't noticed any diminished linen service as a result of the strike.

"I checked with our purchasing folks," Pittman said. "They said we haven't seen any disruptions whatsoever." She also said the company hasn't noticed any ambulatory pickets at any of the Station Casinos properties.

Gregory Kamer, an employers' attorney at Kamer Zucker & Abbott who is not involved in the negotiations, said strikes are the least effective means of forcing a settlement for a contract dispute. He said strikes hurt workers more than they do companies.

"Ultimately everything gets resolved in the negotiations," Kamer said. " In this day and age strikes don't shut a company down."

Copyright © Las Vegas Sun. Inc. Republished with permission.

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