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Striking Lockheed Martin workers picket in Maryland, other states

FORT WORTH, Texas — Unhappy with proposed changes to health care benefits and pension plans, dozens of Lockheed Martin workers started picketing Monday at a North Texas plant where F-35 stealth fighter jets are made, as well as outside flight test centers in two other states.

Machinists picket at the Lockheed Martin main gate at North Grant's Lane and Clifford in White Settlement, Texas

The strike by Fort Worth-based Machinists Local 776 began after the 3,600 union members voted overwhelmingly Sunday to reject the aerospace company’s latest contract offer. Union members oppose the company’s proposed changes to the health care and pension plans — including higher deductibles and co-payments — and eliminating pension for newly hired workers, said union spokesman Bob Wood.

“With the higher deductibles, it’s a higher cost for workers, and that can get expensive very quickly,” Wood said. “We’re really drawing a line in the sand.”

The company said it believes the offer, which comes with wage increases of 3 percent each year, a $3,000 signing bonus and increased retirement income for current workers, is fair. There are no other meetings scheduled between the company and union.

Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Stout said the Fort Worth plant remains open and no problems have been reported. Some employees have been assigned alternate job duties to take over for the striking workers, Stout said.

Still, last week Lockheed informed its customers — the military branches — about the possibility of a work stoppage as required by its federal contracts, Stout said.

Union members also were picketing Monday outside Edwards Air Force Base in California and Patuxtent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. Each flight test center has fewer than 150 union members.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 776 represents about a quarter of the 14,000 workers at the Lockheed Martin plant. Those on strike do most of the aircraft assembly and manufacturing work on the F-35 and F-16 fighter jets or service the machines and facilities.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a supersonic stealth jet and is the nation’s most advanced and expensive weapons program. Concerns about its safety, cost overruns and questions about the entire program’s feasibility have delayed pilot training and caused increased scrutiny by the Pentagon and Congress.

Built by Lockheed Martin under a 2001 contract, the F-35 is supposed to replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the Air Force’s F-16 fighter and the Navy’s and Marines’ F/A-18 Hornet.

Costing between $65 million and $100 million each, depending on the version, the F-35 is described as a generational leap from older fighter jets. A single-seat aircraft, it can fly at speeds of about 1,050 mph.

One comment

  1. It is always good with these articles onlabor disputes to include the revenue these company seeking to impoversish its workers bring in each year. The article I just read says $11.3 billion in sales……20% increase in profits.

    This allows people to see that these policies being used against the unions are unacceptable. The same can be done with the public sector write-downs on pensions and wages. Always note at the same time how many business tax credits the state and local governments have given away.

    This is journalism….it gives a balanced view of the subject!