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Vol. 76/No. 27      July 23, 2012

On the Picket Line

Machinists end 10-week strike
against Lockheed Martin

HOUSTON—After 10 weeks on strike, Machinists at Lockheed Martin Corp.’s plant in Fort Worth and testing facilities at Edwards Air Force Base in California and the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland began returning to work July 2. IAM Local 776 members approved a new contract by a four-to-one margin June 28.

An overwhelming majority had previously rejected the company’s proposed contract, which included cutting pensions for new hires and increasing the cost of health insurance for all workers. The new contract replaces the pension for new hires with a 401(k) plan, but includes no increases in health insurance premiums.

“Even though we lost the pensions for new hires, we made a stand,” said Maria Gupton, a composite binder, in a phone interview. “The company didn’t break us down the way they thought they could.”

“A lot of people were running out of money and felt pressed to settle,” John Montana, a flight test mechanic, told the Militant.

“I voted for the contract because it was better than the first offer, and Lockheed Martin was preparing to hire many more replacements,” said LaDonna Fritchman, an electrical assembler.

“Lockheed Martin and the union agreed on a fair and competitive offer that is appropriate for the current defense business environment, with its increasing customer demands for affordability in our products,” Joe Stout, company spokesman for the Fort Worth facility, told the Militant by email.

“We’re pleased to have the union members back at work,” said Stout. “The important thing now is to concentrate on the important work that’s ahead for the company in the F-35 and F-16 aircraft programs.”

Some workers described what it’s like now back in the plant.

“Old work rules are being applied aggressively,” said Fritchman. “People are being walked out for chewing gum and bathroom breaks are being timed. We’re going to have to file some grievances in response to this hostile work environment.”

“We should be able to work without threats and harassment,” said Gary Barnes, a fire systems inspector. “Union members are being forced to change shifts and work out of classification.”

The contract covers 3,600 workers making military aircraft in Fort Worth and 350 more at Edwards Air Force Base and the Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

—Michael Fitzsimmons

Unionists strike construction
agency in Quebec over cuts

MONTREAL—About 80 strikers and supporters demonstrated in front of the Quebec Construction Commission July 6 blowing whistles, beating pots and pans, and urging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Many did.

The strike by the 600 members of Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union Local 573 began June 5 after unionists by an 86 percent margin voted a week earlier to walk out. Construction Commission bosses then locked out the workers for two days. The workers have been without a contract since December 2009.

The commission, a for-profit provincial government agency, oversees Quebec’s construction industry. It is demanding 189 changes to the previous agreement, including a 15 percent wage cut and cutbacks to the pension plan.

—John Steele

Ill. workers at bearings plant
vote down union representation

HAMILTON, Ill.—Workers at NTN-Bower Corp., a manufacturer of bearings in nearby Macomb, voted 403 to 133 against representation by the United Steelworkers union, according to union supporters in the plant. The company had hired the Labor Relations Institute, a union-busting outfit, and held compulsory weekly meetings for employees for four weeks prior to the June 21-22 election.

“I think the Labor Relations Institute classes scared off a lot of people,” Rex Sheetz, a mechanic, told the Militant.

The company made several statements recognizing there are problems in the plant and promised to make improvements. A number of workers who voted against the union said they wanted to “give the company a chance,” Sheetz noted. Lack of seniority rights is one of the main issues.

NTN-Bower did not return calls from the Militant requesting comment.

—Helen Meyers

Related articles:
Metropolis, Ill., Steelworkers back Caterpillar, sugar workers
Locked-out workers stand up to Con Edison union busting
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