Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 776 build and test bombers and fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force and Navy. The strike is now in its fifth week. The center of the fight is at Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas, plant, which employs 3,600 of the striking workers. Another 350 work at Lockheed’s test facilities at the Patuxent River Naval Air Base in Maryland and Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Two other unions representing some 500 workers at the Fort Worth plant—the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Office and Professional Employees International Union—voted May 18-19 to accept a concession contract similar to one the Machinists rejected April 22 by a margin of 94 percent.
The proposed contract would eliminate the defined benefit pension plan for new hires. It also included a health plan that workers say would require them to pay substantially more out of their own pocket.
The health care plan that the company wants to impose “has some additional cost-sharing provisions,” company representative Joe Stout told the Militant in a phone interview.
“For me a cost increase would be devastating,” said Gilbert Torres, chief shop steward at the Patuxent River Naval Air Base facility in Maryland. Torres has had back surgery with another scheduled later this year. He says his operation was completely covered, but under the proposed plan he would have to pay 13 percent of the cost after a $2,000 deductible.
Stout says the shift from a defined pension plan “addresses realities our industry is facing, with cuts to defense spending and an economic downturn.”
Stout claims that the company is operating at “normal or near-normal” production levels in spite of the strike.
But workers on the picket line at the Patuxent River facility said that the company is running about eight test flights of the F-35 warplane per week, down from four to five a day.
“Lockheed is trying to convince the public and the government that they are not having any problems due to the strike,” Joe Alviar, a business representative from the District 776, told the Militant. “If that’s the case, why are they trying to hire 400 replacement workers in Fort Worth next week? Why are they trying to move production to their facility in Marietta, Ga.?”
“When it’s hard times you see whose got your back. This strike is making us stronger. When we go back to work we can have unity,” said William Myers, a worker at the Patuxent River Naval Air Base facility who has worked for Lockheed Martin since 2008. “But if we let them take away the pensions from the new hires, that unity goes away.”
Send strike donations and support letters to District Lodge 776, 7711 Clifford St., Ft. Worth, TX 76108.
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