More than 3,300 workers have been on strike here since April 23, according to company figures. Another 350 union members work at Lockheed’s testing facilities at Edwards Air Force Base in California and the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland where Machinists are also on strike.
“We’re on strike because the company won’t give us what we need,” Maria Gupton, a composite binder, told the Militant. “Now they are trying to pressure us to go back to work. But it’s the company that needs to get back to the bargaining table. Our strike is strong.”
The workers, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 776, have been on strike since they voted by a 94 percent margin to reject company proposals that would slash pensions for new hires and significantly increase the cost of health insurance for all workers.
“Gains like these were made by fighting for them in the past, and if we lose them it will be hard to win them back,” said Chris Hanska, a 35-year-old field and service mechanic.
On Monday, June 4, the unionists started organizing expanded early morning rallies to greet the vans of temporary replacement workers Lockheed is busing in. Lockheed announced three weeks ago that it was hiring the strikebreakers from PMG, a Bloomington, Minn., temporary staffing agency that specializes in providing scab labor.
The factory here builds the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for the U.S. military. Lockheed has been under pressure from the Pentagon to lower costs of its latest-generation fighter jet, as the U.S. government looks to reduce its expenditures in response to mounting fiscal problems, exacerbated by the deepening worldwide crisis of capitalism.
Chief Executive Bob Stevens “said Lockheed was focused on maintaining its profit margins, largely through cost-cutting measures and higher international sales, even as defense spending declined,” said the New York Times.
Lockheed recently moved center wing assembly work for the F-35 to Marietta, Ga., a basis for one of six unfair labor practice complaints filed by the union with the National Labor Relations Board. Company spokesman Joe Stout claims the decision to move the work was not related to the strike, reported the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The union has also filed a complaint against the company for pressuring workers by sending letters saying they had to maintain payments on loans during the strike.
Some 200 have returned to work, according to union spokesman Bob Wood. “On the other hand, we know we are having a big impact on the company.”
As the strike enters its eighth week workers are organizing to help each other deal with the challenges of being on strike. This week the union began a program of member-to-member food donations.
“I’m a single mother with two kids and I’ve gone through my savings,” Jackie Elrod, a 32-year-old assembler with nine years at Lockheed, told the Militant. “But I am here because I understand what the strike’s about. My 11 year old would like to work here some day. It’s about the future.”
Strike donations and support letters can be sent to District Lodge 776, 7711 Clifford St., Ft. Worth, TX 76108.
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On the Picket Line
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