Strike Getting Violent - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Searcy, AR -- Marsha Mays Reporting

Strike Getting Violent

SEARCY, AR -- Workers at the Kohler Plant in Searcy have been on strike for nearly four months, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

Until about a week ago, the Searcy Police says it's been a fairly peaceful strike, but they say all that has changed.

"We've gone 16 times from last Friday to today and we've gone for a number of different reasons ranging from harassment complaints to charges that there's actually been a gun on Kohler property," says Amber Dillon-Bramlett, the media relations representative from the Searcy Police Department.

"It's pretty much rumor because I mean if they had any evidence on these people they'd be arrested them, instead of it being accusations. So, until they start arresting people over the accusations they've sent forth, it's just rumor.))

The strikers, who are part of the United Auto Workers Union, rejected a proposed contract from Kohler on December 9th and ever since, all 239 Kohler employees have been on strike at the factory. In February, replacement workers were hired filling over half of Kohler's workforce.

The Searcy Police records show they have made arrests, and it's not just the picketers. Replacement workers have been arrested for disorderly conduct as well.

"We're getting complaints from both sides. We're getting complaints filed from strikers and workers as well," says Dillon-Bramlett, with SPD.

From harassment, to disorderly conduct, to battery, and destruction of personal property, it's fair to say both sides of this strike are getting out of hand.

"We've had them to swerve and try to run over our people. We've had guns pulled, people spit on us, so you know, we're probably scared on both sides," says Smith, the Union President.

But Smith admits they aren't innocent in the strike. As replacement workers have left the plant during shift changes, 2 wrecks have been caused from the strike distractions.

"I guess it would be pretty scary going through a bunch of people hollering scabs and stuff, but we have the right to do that," says Smith.

A right that they say they're going to keep pushing for.

"We've been working on trying to get back to the table and talk to the company and until we can get them to the table and talk, I guess we're going to be right where we're at," says

As for Kohler, a representative for the stainless steel factory said in a statement that "reports of potential violence on the picket line are troubling to say the least and will not be tolerated."

Searcy Police have now been assigned to the factory during all shift changes.    

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