Maremont allegations denied Company alleges violence; union official: Strike peaceful

May 9, 2007

Union official Dale Smallen denied Tuesday the allegations in an unfair labor practices complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board against striking workers at the Maremont Exhaust Products plant in Loudon.

"We're in compliance with the restraining order against us, and we are conducting a peaceful and legal strike," said Smallen, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 2545.

"Maremont wants to paint us as terrorists, but let's remember the only proven act of wrongdoing was when a company-hired, out-of-state thug ran over a striker. Neither Maremont nor the 'security company' that hired him bothered to check that the 'security guard' was driving on a revoked license," Smallen said in a statement released to the media.

That incident occurred shortly after the strike began Feb. 5. The striker was not seriously injured.

In a separate incident Saturday, "a vehicle driven by one of the replacement workers hired by the company struck a striker," Smallen said.

The striking worker was treated for minor injuries, he said.

Since 227 of Maremont's 400-person work force went on strike, the company has permanently replaced 150 workers.

The NLRB complaint - issued April 30 and made public by the company Monday - alleges that union members "attempted to intimidate and terrorize" Maremont employees, customers and vendors in an effort to force the plant to close.

Maremont owner Kenneth Banks said the company's only goal is "to be a successful company and a productive member of our community. We sincerely hope the violence and harassment of our employees, suppliers and customers will soon cease."

A hearing on the complaint will be heard July 30 in Loudon before an administrative law judge of the NLRB.

"The acts against Maremont included threats of physical harm, photographing and videotaping employees, throwing rocks and other projectiles publishing a list of employees who crossed the picket line, firing a cannon-like device in the vicinity of the plant, and scattering nails and other sharp objects at the entrance to the facility," the company said in a statement.

Maremont, which is owned by International Muffler Co. of Schulenberg, Texas, made similar accusations in a federal racketeering lawsuit it filed against the union last month in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

Union officials previously denied that its members were involved in the acts described in the federal lawsuit.

Maremont, which has operated in Loudon for nearly three decades, produces automotive exhaust components, including heavy-duty mufflers and catalytic converters.

Smallen said Tuesday that morale among union members remains strong despite the company's continuing efforts "to bust the union."

More than 35 Loudon-area businesses are sporting signs that read "we support the Maremont strikers," according to the union news release.

The union went on strike, in part, to protest a contract proposal that included a significant increase in health insurance costs for employees.

Smallen said union members "are determined to get back to the bargaining table and get a fair contract."