Union votes itself a hefty cut in pay

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Tough times at a Maryland firm have resulted in labor union concessions that go even further than the unprecedented new contracts in the troubled automobile industry.

A local of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) at the Lion Brothers Company has voted to cut wages 10 percent - and the company is immediately passing on those savings in the form of a 9 percent price rollback.

Every company employee, including the president, is swallowing the 10 percent slash in an effort to shore up faltering business and save jobs. Lion Brothers, with plants in Owings Mills and Taneytown, Md., is the biggest embroiderer of emblems and maker of logos for sports teams, Boy and Girl Scouts, fast food stores, and hotel desk clerks. Many of its customers are struggling and cutting back in today's economic climate.

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''The recession has caught up to us, and the company is having real problems, '' said Scotty Ollis, president of the union local. The membership voted by a 2 -to-1 margin to cut wages back as business slumped and most employees were laid off three times for a week a time.

''Business is off. Machines are idle and employees are aware of it and concerned,'' said Lion Brothers vice-president of marketing Peter Gorman. The union contract was opened 18 months early to arrange the wage cut. The amended deal includes freezing pay at the new level for the remainder of the contract.

A spokesman from ILGWU president Sol Chaikin's office in New York was quick to point out that ''givebacks'' such as the Lion Brothers case will have no effect on nationwide contract negotiations scheduled to start in late May.

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