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USW Union Local 2599 member dies from job incident

04.24.10

MAY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

USW Union Local 2599 member dies from job incident

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, April 19th- Bridget Geist, 37 of Walnutport, died on April 15th from injuries received after a blast and fire at her employer.

Ms. Geist was one of two employees of the Victaulic Company of America in Alburtis hurt at the industrial incident when apparently she was struck by molten metal.

She was a member of the United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 in Bethlhem for more than 20 years according to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599. “She was a good union member,” said Mr. Green.

Mr. Green told the newspaper the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office in Allentown is investigating the incident and the union will receive their findings of what cause the blast. Mr. Green said the other Victaulic employee hurt is doing well and has been released from the hospital.

The union has two labor contracts with the Victaulic Company. Local 2599 represents around 130 employees of the Alburtis facility and approximately 260 workers, not counting those that are currently laid-off, at their Forks Township facility. The company manufactures pipe couplings.

The Forks Township contract agreement expired on January 31st, 2010. On February 8th, 2010 the union membership rejected Victaulic’s “final” contract proposal 269 to 0. The two sides have agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the previous contract.

The company’s contract proposal requested many union concessions including the removal of much of the working condition language. The agreement offered no wage increase, an increase for health care, and lower wages for laid-off employees when recalled. Mr. Green told the newspaper laid-off workers had no reason what-so-ever to vote in favor of the pact. “If they supported it they were giving themselves a pay cut,” Mr. Green told the newspaper.

The Victaulic Company facility in Alburtis contract does not expire with the union until September 2013. The membership voted on September 15th 2008 to ratify the five-year agreement.

Local 2599 represents approximately 1,500 workers throughout the Lehigh Valley which includes 19 separate units of employees.

Ms. Geist, who had five children, died at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest. “I know things have been published about safety violations at Victaulic, but they were aways responsive to safety problems during walk-throughs at the plant,” said Mr. Green.

The union will establish a special fund to help the family of Ms. Geist, Mr. Green said.

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