Union Busting or Bluff?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Loudon County (WVLT) - Striking workers at Maremont in Loudon County say health insurance costs and cuts to a 401(k) program lead them to the picket line.

Meanwhile, the company is still trying to get the work done.

WVLT Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd takes a look at how this labor dispute is heating up.

In 26 degree wind chill every honk helps stoke a striker's fire of commitment after 10 days of picketing.

"It's hurting pretty good right now," says Maremont Worker Jerry Smith. "There are a lot of married people on the line right now hurting."

Still when Jerry Smith saw a commercial on his TV last night saying "Due to a recent labor strike Maremont needs over 100 welders, machine operators and machinists for permanent positions."

"That's a shame he has to go that far," Smith says. "He know he has good employees."

"He's just trying to scare us. People just can't walk off the street and learn what we do in there," says Jeanine Dutton.

"For over 40 years our plant has provided jobs to the Loudon community," the commercial advertises.

But the boss says it's no bluff.

"We are hiring some people of temporary workers, if we hire permanent replacements that position he or she took is now permanently filled," Maremont owner Kenneth Banks tells WVLT in a telephone conversation.

"Could be exactly what they need to do," UT Economic Researcher Doctor Matt Murray says what some may call union busting back when Maremont opened some 30 years ago, is now business as usual facing global competition.

"They don't gain much in the long run by rubbing the union's nose in this business," Dr. Murray says. "If they settle and return they could be bitter for some time forward.

The machinists are tracking those who cross the picket line but, "I got nothing against those people, you gotta do what you gotta do," Jerry says.

"It will be very difficult, very difficult," says Maremont worker Pat Bright.

Still they had hopes that talks would get somewhere Thursday afternoon.

"Unfortunately the union and company were unable to reach an agreement on a new contract," Maremont attorney Michael Moshel announced late Thursday afternoon.

"We're willing to go as long as it takes," says Bright.

But practically speaking, "What unions often get is a settlement, its often very small compared to what they sacrificed out on strike," Dr. Murray says.


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