Moncure Plywood strike continues

By Ben Lassiter

MONCURE, N.C.--About 50 students, unionists and other activists turned out March 16 to support striking workers at Moncure Plywood. The 110 members of International Association of Machinists Local W369 have been walking the picket line 24 hours a day for eight months since the company refused to negotiate with the union last July.

The plant makes plywood, primarily for furniture, bought by companies such as La-Z-Boy and Ethan Allen. The strike began after management demanded a 60-hour workweek, the dismantling of seniority rights and increases in health care premiums of up to 400 percent.

What you can do

Checks can be made out to IAM W369 and sent to P.O. Box 318, Moncure, N.C., 27559. Contact the local president, Lewis Cameron, with messages of solidarity, at (919) 770-5836.

Local W369 is a 40-year-old union, and this is its first strike. The racial composition of the local reflects the demographics of the area--largely African American, with some Latinos and whites. Many of the workers on strike have been at the plant 20 or 30 years.

Jeff Brigman, a United Auto Workers Local 5287 member at the Thomas Built Buses plant in High Point, N.C., turned out to show his support. "It's not our union, but we're all one," he said. "Any union-busting is an attack on all unions."

In an attempt to intimidate workers in the early days of the strike, the company hired off-duty sheriffs to patrol company grounds, which was cited by the National Labor Relations Board as an illegal use of county resources.

Even worse, unionists reported a noose hanging near one of the plants' entrances for a number of days. Supervisors walked by the noose every day and did nothing about it, later claiming it was "just a garden hose." Members of the "Raging Grannies" and an independent truck driver later removed the noose.

Atlas Holdings, a Greenwich, Conn.-based investment firm and parent company of Moncure Plywood, has attempted to permanently replace the union workers with scab labor, many of whom are Latino workers who were laid off after a nearby poultry plant closed last year.

Amazingly, Moncure Plywood, with its 19th century labor and human rights practices, attempts to maintain a 21st century environmental facade by being part of a "Sustainable Futures Council."

At the rally, North Carolina AFL-CIO President James Andrews led the chant, "We'll be with you, one day longer, one day stronger!"

"Been out here too long to give up," said clipper operator James Thomas, a 38-year veteran of the plant, expressing his determination to keep fighting.

Moncure workers need our support. The local provides $150 a week to strikers to cover mortgages, rent, health care and household expenses.