BY ARLENE RUBINSTEIN
MARIETTA, Georgia - Machinists union members at Lockheed Martin Corp. here ratified a contract at the giant military aircraft plant March 9. The 4,200 members of International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 709 had rejected an earlier proposal on February 28 by 68 percent.
On March 5 the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMSC) ordered the IAM and Lockheed Martin to resume negotiations canceling a strike scheduled at the defense plants here and in Palmdale, California. The FMCS, a government agency, wrote the union that "a job action by your organization threatens to cause a substantial interruption of commerce."
The new three-year pact was ratified by 59 percent. The union forced the company to shelve some of its worst takeback demands. Lockheed withdrew plans to institute a four-day, 10- hour workweek.
"Unions were started so that workers could get some control over our lives. I'm against the 10-hour day," explained Valerie Wiley, an expediter with 20 years at Lockheed, at the union hall on the day of the voting. "Besides these companies need to realize, women workers have a second job at home."
Pat Stripling, who walked the picket line with her father during a three-month strike in 1977 and currently works in the plant, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, "There's a lot of younger workers that would have day care problems."
The company also withdrew a proposal to reduce 24 job classifications to 9. Many workers interviewed still see job combining and layoffs coming. P.J. Parker, a 34-year veteran at Lockheed, described the wage package of 3 percent a year as "a pittance compared to what we should have had.
"What really gets me is these CEOs skimming off the top, and blaming workers for not being competitive with the rest of the world. If you're going to try to enslave the populace, why don't you just say so," he said. "Another thing, after spending my life making these people `gillions,' what about my retirement? I only have one life to give."
Under the new contract, workers will receive $47 for every year of service. "At UPS, they get $100 per month per year of service - that's more like it, " said Parker. Other workers explained that the 3 percent wage increase was offset by increases in deductibles for health care. Allen Jackson, told the Militant, "When I first came to Lockheed almost 20 years ago, I contributed 30 cents a week for family medical coverage."
Under the tentative agreement workers will pay $48 a week. Allen also ridiculed union officials for endorsing both of the company's offers. "It's not leadership," he added.
PALMDALE, California - Members of the IAM met here March 9 to discuss and vote on Lockheed's contract offer. The offer passed in a very close vote, with 802 in favor and 717 against.
All those rank-and-file members who spoke were opposed to the contract. Union officials all pushed for its adoption.
Workers responded by booing and heckling the negotiators and union officials. "There isn't going to be anything else - you take it or you fight for it. We're only going to get what we have the courage to take," declared one worker, who said he had 29 years in the plant.
"Don't be afraid to go on strike," said another. "I have four kids and I'm not afraid of going out on strike for what is right. We are voting on the same contract again." As in Marietta, workers here also rejected an offer February 28.
Workers were upset with the proposed increase in medical payments for doctor's visits and prescription drugs. Mark Casillas, a five-year employee, told the Militant, "We've had no wage increase for 12 years. Labor grade one, which I am in, begins at $7.15 an hour and increases only 75 cents per year to a maximum of $12.52."
His friend added that when the Ontario Lockheed plant shut down in 1997 and workers moved, their cost-of-living allowance (COLA) was eliminated and they had no seniority or bidding rights in the new plant.
Greg Hammack opposed the "COLA lump sum not being folded into the base wage. As well, the cost-of-living is not being given to past retirees." He said the combining of job and labor grades had been used to push down workers' wages. "We need to fight to get back the concessions."
Arlene Rubinstein is a member of the IAM in Atlanta. Mark Friedman is a member of the IAM. Cesar Guerrero and Maithong Tang contributed to this article.
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