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Fri, Feb 29, 2008

Lockheed Machinists Gearing Up For Strike

Contract Expires Sunday At Midnight

Workers at eight Lockheed Martin facilities nationwide are on the verge of striking for the third time in six years, as their current contract expires at midnight Sunday.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports workers represented by the International Association of Machinists are meeting with Lockheed officials in California to hammer out a deal... but Local 709, which represents 3,000 machinists at Lockheed's plant in Marietta, GA appears pessimistic on the chances of those talks succeeding. A full 98 percent of union membership recently took a preliminary vote to strike.

"We are in negotiations and were very close to ending these negotiations," said IAM national aerospace coordinator John Crowdis.

Union officials expected to be presented with a "last, best and final" offer from Lockheed as soon as Thursday. Union members in California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and West Virginia would then vote on the contract Sunday, at noon Eastern time.

Crowdis adds while each location will vote on the same contract, one plant could ratify the contract while another could vote to oppose the offer. Areas of contention between the two sides include job security, pension plans, and ever-increasing health-care costs.

"We're cautiously optimistic — we've made progress in many areas," he said. "[But] we're not quite where we need to be."

Alyce Sarno, spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin at the Marietta plant, said the company had no public statement one way or another on how negotiations are proceeding, due to the ongoing talks.

"We're fully prepared per our preparation process that we have to keep our customers first and foremost in terms of all production activity," she said. "We would not disclose in the public sector what our plans were but our customers can rest assured that we will do what needs to be done."

If plants vote to strike, the labor action would impact production of two of the company's most sought-after aircraft -- the F-22 Raptor, and the C-130J transport. Air Force officials announced Thursday they want approval to extend production of the latter past the line's expected 2010 closure.

Machinists at Lockheed last struck the company in 2005. That action lasted a week, before members voted by about 3-1 to approve a contract that included a 10 percent wage increase, and $1,500 signing bonuses.

In 2002, members struck for 49 days... and nearly halted aircraft deliveries. In both cases, workers later approved contracts that were largely similar to deals they opposed prior to striking, according to the AJC.

FMI: www.lockheedmartin.com, www.goiam.org

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