On the Picket Line

Northstar workers strike over wages, insurance, disrespect

By Naomi Craine
July 10, 2023

BEDFORD PARK, Ill. — The 123 workers at Northstar Aerospace, members of the International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 14430, walked off the job June 5. The plant makes parts for Apache and Chinook military helicopters.

“The main issues are wages, insurance and attendance,” Local President Dave Gerard told the Militant on the picket line June 25. Northstar stayed open through the 2020 pandemic, he said, and one worker died of COVID-19. Others became seriously ill. When the union asked for hazard pay, “they said, ‘No, you have a contract,’” Gerard said. “Well, now the contract is up and we want to see a real wage increase.”

The union also wants to end two-tier health insurance. In 2016 the company threatened to move to Arizona and a number of workers took severance packages. After the 2017 contract was signed, it rehired some of the same workers, but is charging them higher insurance premiums.

The company also wants to make an already strict attendance policy more draconian, including imposing an extra penalty on workers who are more than six minutes late if they don’t call in at least half an hour ahead of time. And they want to end overtime pay after eight hours.

“You have to treat people with respect, not abuse them,” said Wilfrido Rodriguez, a machinist with 15 years at the company.

Strikers held a solidarity rally on the picket line June 6, backed by the Chicago Federation of Labor. They’ve also received support from members of United Auto Workers Local 588, who in April won their own strike for a first contract at the Metal-Matic steel plant just up the street. The strikers are keeping up the picket line 24/7 at 6006 W. 73rd Street, Bedford Park.