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Eaton imposes deadline for strikers to return to work or risk permanent replacement

In a letter to union members, the company's senior vice president said any striker not at work by March 9 faces being "waitlisted" upon conclusion of the strike.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — In a letter from Eaton Corporation, striking members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) were told to return to work by March 9 or else risk being replaced and waitlisted. 

The note, shared with News 8 by union members, came from Eaton's senior vice president, Kevin McKeown. It says the company has begun posting job vacancies for permanent replacements. Any employee who continues striking past March 9 risks being placed on a waitlist for their job, reads the letter. 

Workers were warned the company would begin looking for permanent replacements after 97% of union members voted against a second offered contract on March 4. 

RELATED: Eaton union members reject 2nd contract offer, company will now try hiring permanent replacements

"I want to emphasize that Eaton respects the right of individuals to engage in a lawful strike, and your employment is not 'terminated' when we hire permanent replacements," it said, in part. "However, your ability to promptly return to work will be based on actual vacancies and not your desire to return to work." 

Union members have previously said their jobs at Eaton are highly technical, often requiring months of training. According to the letter, the company says that's why replacements must be permanent. 

"You all know that the work we do requires significant training, skill and investment. Individuals cannot walk in off the street and perform this work without similar training and investment," read the letter. 

RELATED: 'It's just a simple tactic' | Why one striker is confident Eaton won't replace union workers

Eaton's Davenport facility manufactures military and aerospace equipment. The government is one of the plant's largest contractors, buying aerial refueling equipment, fuel tank inerting systems and environmental products.

The letter then goes on to tell workers how to cross the picket line and avoid fines from the union. 

According to the letter, strikers that return to work while maintaining union membership may be subject to disciplinary actions. 

"If you want to cross the picket line and avoid being fined, you may do so by first resigning from the union," said the letter. "Once your resignation from the union is effective, you can come to work and not risk being fined for crossing the picket line." 

March 9 marked 20 full days of the strike. 

Neither the IAM union nor the company responded to requests for comment on the letter or its contents. 

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