Strikers Get Letter: Work or Be Replaced

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Loudon, Loudon County (WVLT) - A strike at the international muffler company in Loudon, formerly Maremont, is growing more bitter.

The company is already threatening to replace striking workers and now they're taking some of them to court.

International muffler company officials say they're just trying to protect the safety of their workers still on the job from striking workers they say are violating a restraining order and coming onto company property.

And come Monday, 25 striking workers will have to show up in court, and explain their actions to stay out of jail.

Until then, they say they will stay off the job until they get a contract that's fair.

It's a cold walk on the picket line, but union workers say they will stick it out for their rights.

"We have to take a stand, we're in it for the long haul, whatever it takes ya know, we're gonna be here warmin' these barrels," says Joe Finger.

One hundred and ninety workers from the International Machinists Local 2545 have been on strike for the last five days.

But some are not holding signs and not bearing the cold.

"We're bargaining for them too and that does create some hard feelings among the people who are walking the line," says Dale Smallen, from IAMAW.

Thursday, workers on strike received this letter, drafted the 6th and post-marked the 7th, it says employees who did not report to work on the 8th, will be permanently replaced.

"We have ads running in almost every newspaper and every radio station," says Kenneth Banks, Maremont Owner and President. "We have to have somebody to build product and supply our customers with what they need."

Another big point of contention among the union members, health insurance costs.

"We've not been able to get everyone to realize the real hard price of healthcare," says Banks.

Bobby Woody's a single father of two, he says the proposed 68 cent insurance increase, without a pay raise, would cost him one of his two monthly paychecks.

"It's not easy, you have to watch how you're spending money and stuff to make it, if they get that contract it's about impossible," says Woody.

So the strike will continue, for as long as it takes.

"If it cost us our job we're here for, because we think we're right," says Finger.

Union officers and management will be back at the bargaining table on Thursday.

On February 23rd, a Loudon County Chancellor will decide whether the restraining order should stay in place.

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