IAM idles military aircraft production in Georgia
March 15, 2002 | Page 11
MARIETTA, Ga.--Workers at a plant that produces military aircraft here surprised Lockheed Martin bosses with a strike March 11. The 2,700 workers, members of International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 709, voted to strike by a 4-to-1 margin in order to fight for better job security.
"You can offer someone a good percentage on wages, and you can double and triple that, but that doesn't mean a thing if you don't have a job," Local 709 Vice President Jimmy Farist told Socialist Worker.
The strike halted production of F-22 Raptor fighter jets and C-130J Hercules transport planes. Management and the media have attacked the IAM as unpatriotic for striking during wartime.
"If you want to call someone unpatriotic, you need to call the company that, because they are outsourcing jobs to foreign countries," Farist said. "Everybody paints us as the bad guys. But look at [Lockheed Martin CEO] Dan Hancock. If you divide what he makes by 40 hours a week, you will find he makes $8,000 an hour." He added that most of the work formerly done at the plant has been outsourced to nonunion plants scattered across 46 states in the U.S.
After IAM members voted down the company's original deal by a 9-to-1 margin, management upped its offer from a 9 to 10 percent wage hike over three years and doubled the signing bonus to $1,000.
But workers at the plant--where more than 16,000 IAM members once worked--said no once again. That's because besides continued outsourcing, the deal would have imposed higher co-pays for health insurance.
And management's offer would have done little to improve pension benefits, which are so low that some retirees have to spend it all on medical coverage. That's a crucial issue in a plant where the average age is well over 50, Farist said.
"I first hired in back in 1965, and was laid off in 1971," he said. "I had to be rehired in 1979 without seniority because there was a two-year limit on rehire rights."
The walkout in Marietta--the first in 25 years--took place as the IAM settled separate local contacts with Lockheed Martin at plants in Sunnyvale and Palmdale, Calif. But workers at smaller plants in West Virginia and Mississippi also hit the picket line.
Local 709 was mobilizing support from unions in nearby Atlanta as Socialist Worker went to press.