Police use pepper spray on striking Fairbanks workers

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(Host) Tempers flared on the picket lines at the Fairbanks Scales plant in Saint Johnsbury late Tuesday when police used pepper spray in a scuffle with strikers. The crowd at the plant was larger than usual, following a rally which drew union members and supporters from around the region.

Bob South is president of the union local. He says sheriff’s officers overreacted when strikers momentarily kept a delivery truck from entering the plant:

(South) “Everything was going fine until a couple of hothead sheriffs decided that they couldn’t keep their temper and things escalated from there. And one of our members was punched in the face and we had another person that was on the line pepper sprayed.”

(Host) Caledonia County Sheriff Michael Bergeron says some picketers had locked arms and illegally blocked the plant entrance. Bergeron says the picketers moved only after the pepper spray was used.

(Bergeron) “We tried to move them. We asked them to move, we told them not to do this. They wouldn’t move. Even if we put our hands on them and tried to move them, they resisted. The crowd mentality kind of takes over.”

(Host) Bergeron says one arrest is pending as a result of the incident.

Employees at Fairbanks Scales have been on strike for over two weeks. South says the union won’t accept a freeze in pensions and increased health care payments proposed by the company.

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