The strike to preserve pensions and health care benefits by Lockheed Martin workers seems to have struck a chord among other workers as support for the strikers keeps picking up momentum. In the meantime, the company is desperately trying to get workers to give up their fight for a secure retirement by spreading false information and spying on its workers.
Members of IAM District Lodge 776, whose members work at Lockheed’s airplane assembly plant in Fort Worth, Edwards Air Force Base in California, and PAX Naval Air Base in Maryland in late April struck the company when it insisted that their new contract eliminate pensions for new hires and substantially increase workers’ cost for their health care benefit.
Last week, District 776 received a letter that left the local communications committee speechless. It was from Jerry Williams, president of IAM Local Lodge 2786, a local with fewer than 200 members at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The letter contained a $5,000 donation to District 776’s strike effort.
“This letter is to express our pride in the fight that your membership is waging against Lockheed Martin,” reads the letter. “Our local lodge has members that have to deal with the same greedy employer.
“It’s times like this that all Fighting Machinists must come together to support the moral efforts of all members no matter what district lodge, local lodge, and/or region of the country this fight is occurring.”
Local 776 also received $3,000 checks from IAM Local 709 in Marietta, Georgia and the Transportation Communications Union/IAM.
On Tuesday, May 15, retired machinist Frank Martin showed up at the union office and made a $500 contribution out of his own pocket to support the strike. Martin told District 776 Business Manager David Webb and member Anna Richie how proud he was of the union’s members for their stand against the company.
Members and officials of other unions have been showing up on the picket line as well. Union supporters who recently joined strikers on the picket line include those of UAW Local 219, an amalgamated local representing manufacturing workers throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Felipe Gutierrez, Communications Workers of America Local 6201 legislative chair, and Lee Forbes, AFL-CIO director of human relations.
State Representative Lon Burnham and Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair Steve Maxwell also walked the picket line.
Early Wednesday morning Local 776 members at the PAX Naval Air Base in Maryland were joined by members of the Seafarers International Union as they picketed Lockheed corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland. District 776’s strike website called the demonstration a wake up call to let the company know how serious workers are about protecting a safe and secure retirement for all workers.
Meanwhile the company appears to be mounting a scare campaign in hopes of getting workers to accept their concession demands. According to District 776, ING, the company administering the strikers’ savings plan, at the behest of Lockheed sent letters to strikers who borrowed money from the plan. The letter contained misleading information that threatened immediate penalties for missed loan payments. The union corrected the misinformation on its strike website.
The union also filed unfair labor practices charges against the company for spying on strikers, for spreading false information about proposals that the company characterized as being those of the union, and for bypassing the union and it’s negotiating committee with information about the company’s proposals.
The company’s tactics don’t appear to be having much impact. A recent video produced by IAM’s News Network entitled, “Ain’t No Way!” captures the strikers determination to resist Lockheed’s concession demands.
“The membership has drawn a line in the sand,” said Robert Martinez, IAM vice-president who was on the picket line with the strikers. “No more concessions. No more take aways.”
“This was the worst contract I’ve ever seen,” said Local 776 member Robert Oliver about the company’s contract proposal. “It was beyond a slap in the face.”
“I’m not crossing the picket line,” said Kevin Burns, another Local 776 member. “If we’re out for six months, I’ll be out here for six months. I won’t be crossing. We’ll be out here one day longer than they (Lockheed) can stand it.”