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For the first time in eight months, machinists at Moncure Plywood will dress for work Monday morning.

The plant’s 109 union workers approved a new three-year contract Monday night that will end their strike against Atlas Holdings, the owner of the Chatham County plywood factory. Many of the employees had worked at the plant for decades before striking over company demands for a seven-day workweek and 200 percent increases in health insurance premiums.

The new contract keeps wages and work schedules essentially as they were. But provisions giving workers a share of the plant’s financial success, new safety initiatives and shared decision-making are improvements. There is a slight increase in insurance costs, according to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The union and the company approved a tentative agreement late last week during a meeting arranged by a federal mediator. The members endorsed the contract by a vote of 59 to 24.

“Everyone is very relieved,” said Melvin Montford of IAM and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which had supported the workers during the strike. “If this hadn’t been settled, it was feared that the plant would just shut down and move away.”

When employees of Moncure Plywood went on strike in July, the issues were typical for most labor disputes: benefits, wages and working conditions.

But as the strike enters its eighth month – four seasons, now – it’s becoming clear that it’s a really a human rights struggle.

This month, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers filed a class action complaint against the company, Connecticut-based Atlas Holdings, alleging human rights violations. The company intimidated the strikers by allowing a rubber tube fashioned as a noose to hang on company property within sight of the picket line for four days. An independent truck driver eventually removed it.

The company also has hired replacement workers, and refused to negotiate with those on strike, many of whom had worked in the plant for 30 years or more. Union bylaws require that the rank and file must approve any agreement, but who would vote for a contract that cost them their job?

The union, North Carolina A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and other supporters plan a full day of support on Monday, March 16, beginning with a lunch with the strikers, a 5 p.m. rally at the Chatham County Courthouse, and an appearance at the Chatham commissioners meeting where we’ll ask for a resolution opposing the company’s tactics.