Published July 29, 2003
BEAVER COUNTY, Pa. – Buttermilk Falls State Park in Pennsylvania is famous for its foamy glacial stream, which flows down a series of cascades, giving the appearance of churning buttermilk.
The nature preserve was no place for hundreds of illegally dumped tires.
So when high school students in Beaver County got sick of seeing pollution in the park, they decided to do something about it, and volunteers from the Blackhawk High School recycling club removed the tires.
Now union employees of the Beaver County Public Works Department (search) want to be paid for the cleanup.
Lance Vallas of the Services Employees International Union (search) said that the cleanup was a job that union employees are contracted for and should have been paid to do.
"If the county doesn't keep its agreement and contact us and get our permission to acknowledge that work, then it needs to be something that we defend," Vallas told Fox News.
Beaver County Commissioner Charlie Camp said that the county's contract with the union doesn't stipulate that it can't use volunteer labor.
"We have no agreement on what is their work and what is volunteer work," Camp said.
Nate Laney, one of the Blackhawk High School volunteers, said that the group only pitched in because the environmental problem wasn't being addressed.
"It just didn't look good. I mean, this is a natural park and people want to come here and enjoy the beauty," Laney said.
This isn't the first time the union has demanded to be paid for a job it didn't do. Inmates from a work-release program helped spruce up a county park for free, but the county said it paid the union about $1,000 dollars when it complained that the prisoners were stealing union jobs.
This time, the county isn't giving any ground. It claims that the situation is different because the Blackhawk High School volunteers weren't doing union jobs — because public-works employees have never cleaned up tires at Buttermilk Falls.
"Our public-works employees are very busy just maintaining the parks and our public properties and there's no time for them to do this extra work," Camp said.
Although the two sides admittedly have other labor issues that complicate the matter, volunteers like the Blackhawk High School recycling club are feeling unwelcome in Beaver County.
Laney said that the labor dispute was disappointing because it limits community involvement in providing for the environment.
"It puts a black cloud on the situation, we did something good and now they're not so much saying it was wrong," he said, "but they're making it harder for people to go out and do community service."