4,000 Lockheed Workers Go On Strike

David Hawkins, left with fist up, and Brian Johnson, center signalling thumbs up, both members of the Machinists union at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics give their approval to strike after a vote Sunday, April 13, 2003, at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. Union officials said the latest offer by Lockheed was not nearly enough to recommend for ratification. The union represents about 4,000 production workers at the aircraft manufacturing plant in Fort Worth AP

Members of the union representing about 4,000 workers at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s aircraft manufacturing plant went on strike Monday, seeking higher wages and better medical insurance.

Picketing began outside Lockheed Martin Corp.'s plant at 12:01 a.m., as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers' contract with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics expired.

"We have foregone a lot of raises over the last few contracts because our company had not been in a good position," said Mark Hill, a strike captain for District Lodge 776, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "But this year we absolutely are in a different position —there are record profits at Lockheed Martin. We are asking for a fair contract."

Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Stout said the plant would reopen as usual Monday and non-striking employees were expected to report to work. The facility employs about 15,000 workers.

Negotiators for Lockheed Martin and production workers met over the weekend, but failed to agree on a proposed three-year contract. Lockheed made a new offer, improving its wage and pension proposals slightly.

But union officials said the general wage-increase proposal of up to 4 percent in the first year and 3 percent in the next two years was not enough to recommend ratification.

Hill said proposed raises in the contract would be eaten up by increases in medical and prescription drug co-pays.

Employees voted 2,835 to 426 to reject the company's offer, then voted 2,380 to 432 to strike. The existing three-year contract was reached after the Machinists walked off the job for 18 days in April 2000.

"We are disappointed that the union did not accept our contract proposal," Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Stout said.

Lockheed is the second-largest employer in Dallas-Fort Worth. The union's production workers build the F-16, the midsection of the F-A-22 and will begin building the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter later this year.

Workers in the highest skill categories make $11 to $22.43 an hour.

The union's most recent proposal sought raises of 8 percent the first year and 6 percent the next two years, a $1,500 bonus and pension payments of $70 a month per year of service.
  • Justine Blau

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