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City Brewing, Latrobe Brewing workers close to contract

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By C.m. Mortimer
Friday, July 21, 2006

Union workers at Latrobe Brewing Co. are expecting to have a tentative contract with City Brewing Co. ready for a vote on Sunday, a deal that could keep the plant open.

Union officials said Thursday they remain cautiously optimistic that a deal can be reached with La Crosse, Wis.-based City Brewing Co., the nation's fifth-largest brewer.

"We have a vote scheduled Sunday morning to vote on a contract," said George Sharkey, business agent for Local 144 of the IUE-CWA, the industrial division of the Communications Workers of America, which represents about 154 workers at the Latrobe brewery.

Sharkey said some contract issues have to be resolved before a vote can be taken, including a proposal on wages. "They (City Brewing) agreed to it on principal, but we're still waiting for the official okay," said Sharkey.

City Brewing officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sharkey declined to comment on details of the contract. He predicted a lengthy session Sunday at Huber Hall where union officials will explain the details to the membership, answer questions then tally the vote.

Last Sunday, unionized brewers and bottlers ratified a separation agreement with their former employer, InBev USA. No details were disclosed.

Following that meeting, union officials said the tentative deal with City Brewing likely will reduce pay and vacations for some workers at the brewery. They declined further comment.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. bought Latrobe Brewing Co.'s Rolling Rock and Rock Green Light brands from InBev USA in May for $82 million. The brewery, which made the beer since 1939, was not part of the deal and is scheduled to close July 31.

Last week, Anheuser-Busch, the nation's largest brewer, said it is brewing Rolling Rock in New Jersey and will begin bottling it there on Aug. 1.

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