Striking Lockheed Workers Undeterred by Temporary Hires

Workers call Lockheed's decision to hire temporary workers "scare tactics"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Nearly 3,600 machinists at Lockheed Martin remain on the picket line five weeks after refusing the company's last offer. (Published Friday, May 25, 2012)

    Nearly 3,600 machinists at Lockheed Martin remain on the picket line five weeks after refusing the company's last offer.

    The company said it is bringing in temporary workers to keep the F-35 and F-16 programs on schedule. Until now, salaried employees had made up the contingency workforce.

    Striking worker Lonnie Walker said Lockheed's decision to bring in temporary workers would not get much done on the factory floor or at the bargaining table.

    "To my opinion, it's a scare tactic on their part," he said. "There's no way they can bring qualified trained personnel into this factory and build this aircraft. This aircraft is too complicated."

    Phil Black, the president of the International Association of Machinists District 776, said he agrees. He said that while the union isn't surprised by Lockheed's decision, members don't necessarily like it.

    "The company has shown it's getting desperate," he said. "They're trying to scare our members into crossing the picket lines and going back to work."

    Black said the move could also affect future negotiations.

    "You get to the point where you start destroying relationships beyond repair, and the company is treading dangerous water right now when they do that kind of stuff," he said.

    The two sides haven't talked since the strike started.

    Union members said they are committed to getting the company to change its contract offer. The union rejected the last offer over insurance plans and a switch to 401(k) plans for new employees.

    "We'll stay one day longer than they can stand it," Walker said.

    He is among the 95 percent of union members who rejected the contract offer. About 5 percent of union employees have crossed the picket lines to return to work, roughly the same number that opposed the strike.

    Lockheed said in a statement that it wants union members to return to work as soon as possible. The company said an outside contractor would hire the temporary workers, who would have all the qualifications to work in the factory.

    Spokesman Joe Stout said the temporary workers would not get the factory back to its full operation but would help keep the factory productive.

    "The company is taking this additional action at this time to make sure we can continue to meet the commitments we've made to our customers in the F-35 and F-16 programs," the company's statement said.

    Stout said the plant has had good productivity, good safety and good quality with its contingency workforce.

    Temporary workers would help the salaried employees and supervisors get factory work completed and ease work in those employees' departments.

    A handful of temporary workers started on Thursday. Another 50 or 60 will start on Tuesday.

    Black said the longest strike in the plant's history, which happened in 1946, lasted six weeks.