12/6/07

Machinist perps sought in domestic terrorism crime

The Monroe County (TN) home of a woman who crossed a picket line at Maremont Exhaust Products this year was vandalized Tuesday, causing damages totaling $20,000 to $30,000.

The company called it an "act of domestic terrorism." According to a Monroe County Sheriff's Department incident report, the vandalism was probably related to an eight-month strike at Maremont in Loudon County.

The vandalized home belongs to Della Thomas, who crossed the picket line and backed the dissolving of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Local 2545. In October, the National Labor Relations Board effectively dissolved the union after workers and strikers voted 223 to 141 to decertify the union.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident. Damages included vandalism of a big screen TV, cut up furniture, water left running on floors, bleach poured about the home and the word "b----" spray painted about the home. Also, siding was torn off the side of the house, and a swimming pool was "cut in several places" and the water drained out, according to the report.

Dale Smallen, former president of the defunct union, could not be reached for comment.

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.

After the strike began, there were 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.

Maremont said in a statement that it is "appalled at the renewed violence leveled against a Maremont employee. Our hearts go out to this employee during this stressful time."

Maremont further stated that, "It appears that this incident was in retaliation for an employee asserting her rights under federal law to work during the strike and to assist other employees in decertifying the Machinists Union.

"This is the third attack that this employee has suffered since crossing the picket line. We hope that the perpetrators were not former Maremont employees or in any way related to the strike, but the likelihood that this act of domestic terrorism is unrelated to the strike is remote."

The company said it plans to offer "a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this act of domestic terrorism."

(knoxnews.com)

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