Maremont President: Strikers Causing "Epidemic of Violence

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Loudon, Loudon County (WVLT) - Federal mediators will be in Loudon County tomorrow to try to settle the strike at Maremont.

It's been five months since workers there walked off the job.

Monday owner, Kenneth Banks sent us a news release saying the plant has come under, what he calls an "epidemic of violence", but the union says those accusations are false.

Volunteer TV’s Mike McCarthy investigates.

"It seems to be we have a lot of people that think it's ok to act like a terrorists,” and Maremont plant owner Kenneth Banks says he knows exactly who those people are. "There's no question it's the people who are ex-employees here that have been on strike."

"Those are wild accusations with no proof behind them whatsoever,” says union spokesman Bob Wood.

Workers with the 2545 Machinist Union in Loudon set-up their picket line in February, that's after contract negotiations failed.

"We've stood up for what we believe in. That's what's important,” Wood says.

But Banks says the strikers have unleashed an "epidemic of violence" against the plant and current workers. "They're just trying to terrorize us into giving into what they would like us to do."

He says that includes: a bomb threat, shooting into employee homes and car fires.

Banks says the attacks started here in the parking lot since day one of the strike. But once the plant got more security, the attacks moved beyond the fence. "Wherever our employees are, wherever they live."

He says that's Loudon, Knox, McMinn, Monroe, and Roane Counties.

"He has no proof at all for anything. He's just making accusations,” Wood says.

"I don't know how many police reports we have. It would be over 50,” says Banks. “And we have probably more than 200 incidents."

Loudon Police have arrested two strikers since the walk-out, both at the plant.

The first for reckless endangerment, but those charges were dropped. The second was for possession of a weapon with intent to go armed, but neither are tied to any of what the police call "vandalism."

The union's keeping an open mind.

"Let's look at negotiations rather than these accusations,” Wood says.

Tuesday, the next round of those negotiations begin.

Both sides will meet with the federal mediator Tuesday afternoon.

Banks says he's filed racketeering charges against the union with the National Labor Relations Board.

The legal hearing's scheduled to begin at the end of the month.

The plant has replaced the more than 250 strikers.

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