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Air Products division goes on strike after rejecting industrial gas giant's final offer

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Tom Shortell
/
LehighValleyNews.com
More than 180 workers have gone on strike at Gardner Cryogenics, an Air Products division that makes specialized tankers for transporting liquid helium and liquid hydrogen.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — More than 100 workers at an Air Products division took to the picket line Monday after rejecting the company's final contract offer over the weekend.

Employees of Gardner Cryogenics, represented by Whitehall-based Teamsters Local 773, went on strike at 6 a.m. after a supermajority of their 184 members rejected the last, best and final offer Saturday.

By 2 p.m., the strike had taken a picnic-like vibe as supporters showed up with coolers and played cornhole while protesting outside Gardner's facilities on City Line Road, not far from Schoenersville Road.

A steady stream of truckers and motorists blared their horns and revved their engines in support of the union.

Local President Dennis Hower said the union was seeking higher wages to compensate for rising inflation but declined to discuss figures on how much more they were seeking or what Gardner employees are paid now. The Gardner website did not list starting pay for several job openings on its website.

Gardner Cryogenics — a division of Air Products — owns five facilities, including locations in Alburtis, Emmaus and two in Bethlehem, according to its website. Striking employees work in the production, maintenance and shipping departments.

Hower noted that the two sides continued to engage in conversations Monday but that the union would be prepared to strike for as long as it takes to get a fair deal.

"I think there’s a willingness on both sides to get this resolved," Hower said.

Air Products did not return a request for comment Monday afternoon.

The union had been an independent organization but joined the Teamsters in March, Hower said. Air Products and the Teamsters held six negotiations before Saturday but were unable to reach an agreement on a contract, he said.

Gardner Cryogenics, a division of Air Products, makes specialized tankers used to transport liquid helium and liquid hydrogen. Its website boasts that it is the world's leading supplier of large liquid helium storage vessels, and the obituary of the company's founder noted that its products have been sent to the moon.

It owns five facilities, including locations in Alburtis and Emmaus and two in Bethlehem, according to its website. The workers on strike work in the business's production, maintenance and shipping departments.

"This is a very specialized group of employees," Hower said. "The skill they have to create these tanks are second to none. You can’t just come in off the street."