NLRB dissolves Loudon union

223 workers vote to decertify at Maremont, ending 8-month strike

By Michael Silence
Thursday, October 11, 2007

An eight-month strike in Loudon County came to an end this week when a national labor board decertified the striking union.

Strikers spent part of the day Wednesday pulling up their pickets outside Maremont Exhaust Products in Loudon County.

This week the National Labor Relations Board effectively dissolved the union after workers and strikers voted 223 to 141 to decertify the union.

Maremont General Manager Tim Sayers estimated that now more than 200 people are looking for jobs.

In a statement, Bob Wood, spokesman for The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said, “This is the worst kind of union-busting. A Texas millionaire bought a good company with a great reputation and has forced out the very workers who made that reputation. This is all about cheap labor and leaving workers without a voice.”

In February, 227 union members went on strike primarily over significant increases in employee costs for health insurance.

In early spring, the company permanently replaced about 150 of the striking workers.

Since the strike began, there have been reports of windows on vehicles being broken in drive-by shootings, a fire set at an employee’s house, an electrical transformer shot by a high-powered rifle, a bomb scare at the plant, tires being slashed and rocks thrown at individuals and vehicles.

Maremont, which is owned by International Muffler Co. of Schulenburg, Texas, produces automotive exhaust components, including heavy duty mufflers and catalytic converters.

In a statement, Sayers said that the company did not request the decertification election, but rather an employee did. That employee was one of 24 who crossed the picket line, Sayers said.

“Maremont employees saw first hand what the Union Local stood for and how they conducted the strike. We believe that the actions of a small number of the Local’s members gave the entire organization a black eye. The use of threats, violence, intimidation, and harassment turned Maremont’s employees against the union,” Sayers said.

Earlier in the day, Wood released a blistering statement about the decertification.

“It’s obvious that in this case, the very government entities that were set up to protect workers and their jobs were used to destroy good-paying jobs and communities,” Wood said.

“Instead of Maremont being a company that builds a strong community, they will now turn into a low-wage, substandard-benefit manufacturer, which drives down the standard of living across the community,” the statement said.

The company responded, “Interestingly, while the union is claiming solidarity, one of the officers of the Union’s Local has filed charges with the NLRB against the International Union, claiming that the International breached its duty of fair representation to its members so that it could cease paying its members strike benefits and could avoid incurring substantial attorneys’ fees in defense of an upcoming unfair labor practice trial concerning the union’s illegal conduct during the strike.”