June 04, 2012
Credit: Lockheed photo
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s biggest supplier, said June 1 it hired about 145 temporary production and janitorial employees at its Fort Worth, Texas, plant, where a big machinists union has been on strike for six weeks.
Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said the company had brought in 70 assembler, painters and flight line mechanics, as well as 75 janitorial workers so far, and expected to hire more today, when the plant will return to a two-shift operation.
The company may hire up to 400 temporary workers to keep production of its F-16 and F-35 fighter jets on track, according to two sources familiar with the issue.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAM, which represents 3,300 of 14,250 workers at the sprawling plant, has been on strike since April 23, as well as 150 workers at Edwards AFB in California, and 200 more at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.
It is the longest strike the plant has seen in recent decades, but a 1946 work stoppage lasted over 12 weeks.
The strike is adding to pressure on the $397-billion F-35 program, which has already been slowed to allow more time for development and to save money as the Pentagon implements $487 billion in broad spending reductions over the next decade.
The union and management remain at odds over Lockheed’s plan to stop offering new employees defined benefit pension plans. No formal talks have been scheduled.
Paul Black, head of the local union in Fort Worth, and a 31-year veteran of the company, said only about 140 union workers had crossed picket lines to return to work at the Texas plant, and morale remained strong. However, nearly all union members at the California air base had returned to work, he said.
Lockheed Chief Executive Robert Stevens told an investor conference on May 31 that production was continuing, but Lockheed might have to readjust its plan to produce 29 F-35s this year, the company’s first public acknowledgment that the strike could reduce its output.