Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the four-year labor agreement. 81 percent of nearly 2,300 voters approved the deal.
Lockheed Martin union members voted to approve a new labor deal Thursday.
Machinists and aerospace workers have spent 10 weeks on the picket lines in Fort Worth. On Thursday, they voted 1,873 to 447 in favor of the new deal.
"It's a fair contract, I only wish they would have gotten it ten weeks ago instead of now," said union member George Postillion after the vote.
The deal includes a $2,000 bonus and annual raises starting at 3 percent the first year. It doesn't change basic health care plans. Additionally, workers hired after ratification will receive retirement savings plans instead of traditional pensions.
The agreement is not everything that the 3,600 striking workers had hoped for, but union leaders believed the deal was “the best offer” they will get from the country’s largest defense contractor. But International Association of Machinists 776 President Paul Black says they'll keep fighting for pensions.
"We haven't ended that fight and we haven't ended that struggle and we will continue to seek a defined pension plan for new hires and everyone else who works out here at Lockheed Martin," Black said. "We've got a contract for the next four years, I'm just saying don't expect four years from now that this won't be back on the table, because it will."
Current employees wanted to keep pensions for the next generation. It was one of the major issues workers talked about on the picket lines.
“The thing with the 401k plan, you have to put it in the stock market. If the stock market plunges, you lose everything you’ve got. With a pension plan, it’s a set deal. If they could have worked it out, great. I’m sorry for the younger guys,” said Dewey Holt, crane operator.
With the new deal approved, workers will return July 2 or July 9 and say they're ready to do just that.
"We've been out a long time, it's time to go back to work," union member Willie Mass said.
Many workers said the strike was taking a toll, mentally, physically and monetarily.
“I’ve been saving up for it though. You always expect it out here, always getting laid off or on strike,” said Davis Shipps, assembler.
Union leaders say they’ve spent several grueling days with negotiators hashing out the labor deal and believe it’s the best plan to avoid a longer work stoppage with an uncertain outcome.
Many workers feel it’s been worth the fight.
"Once you give something up, you'll never get it back so we just want to hold on to the benefits that we have,” said Scott Wilk, wing assembler.
Lockheed Martin spokesman Joe Stout said Thursday afternoon that the company is pleased the union workers will be coming back to work and will get the F-35 production line back up to speed relatively quickly.
"They've been out of the job for ten weeks, but we think they'll get up to speed pretty fast because this is an experienced workforce," Stout said.
Stout said temporary workers hired several weeks into the strike to keep F-35 production moving will be gone by the time union workers return.
Stout reiterated the company's position that the offer was fair and equitable for both the company and the union workers.
NBC 5's Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.