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April 2012, Week 4

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Tue, 24 Apr 2012 22:06:12 -0400
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Could a Union Strike Ground the Pentagon's New Jet?
Lockheed workers seeking to protect their pensions are
putting the "strike" in the $1 trillion F-35 Joint
Strike Fighter.
By Adam Weinstein
Mother Jones
April 23, 2012
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/union-joint-strike-fighter-pentagon

The union builders of one of the Pentagon's priciest
pieces of equipment are going on strike, threatening
the beleaguered trillion-dollar program and the Beltway
contractors who are counting on it.

Last Sunday, workers at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth,
Texas, construction plant voted by more than a 9-to-1
margins to strike for better conditions [1]. The
plant's 3,600 union machinists handle most of the parts
and assembly for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an
over-budget, under-performing, behind-schedule [2]
fighter jet that's on record [3] as one of the biggest
wastes of money in Pentagon history.

At 12:01 a.m. this morning, members of the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers Local 776 walked off the job. At issue was
Lockheed's proposal to slash pensions and health-care
programs for new hires and rehired machinists. "But
there are other things that are still open on the table
that are unacceptable," union president Paul Black told
MSNBC [4]. Workers are ready for a lengthy work
stoppage, according to the Ft. WorthStar-Telegram:

Nick Hight, an 8-year Lockheed employee, said he was
willing to strike for weeks if necessary over the
pension issue. "No pension for new hires, that's not
good. What if my granddaughter wanted to work here."

"They keep taking things away from us," said Kim
Nguyen, an aircraft assembler who has worked 15 years
at the Lockheed plant. "They've gotten too greedy.
We've got to fight for something."


Read more here:
http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/22/3903130/lockheed-machinists-vote-to-strike.html#storylink=cpy

It's not like the laborers are trying to get blood from
a stone: Thanks largely to the F-35 program, Lockheed
is the single biggest defense contractor in the United
States, with $17.34 billion in federal projects per
year [5]--more than "Beltway bandits [6]" KBR, Boeing,
and General Dynamics combined. So far, Lockheed's made
$400 billion off the F-35, despite cost overruns and
concerns over the craft's airworthiness [7] that have
delayed its delivery for service, first slated for
2010.

A spokesman for Lockheed only told the Star-Telegram
that the company considered its final offer to the
workers "equitable," since its equally profitable
competitors "no longer offer defined benefit pension
plans to new hires." In contrast, Lockheed CEO Robert
Stevens made $25.4 million last year, including a $4.7
million bonus--a 16 percent increase over his 2010
compensation, even though company earnings fell 8
percent in the same period, according to SEC filings
[8]. Of course, as my colleague Josh Harkinson has
reported [9], some of America's most successful CEOs
have always gotten rich by squeezing workers. But
defense contractors rarely get the same scrutiny as
bank, insurance, and retail executives.

Could a lengthy strike further delay the F-35? Maybe;
Lockheed reports [10] no effects on its assembly line
so far, though it has notified the military services
that there could be problems delivering the jets on
time. But with conservatives on a renewed hunt for
communists [11] and the House Armed Services Committee
meeting this week [12] to discuss the annual defense
budget, expect Republicans to defend their No. 1
private contractor while tossing a couple of barbs at
those "unpatriotic" union workers down in Texas.

Source URL:
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/union-joint-strike-fighter-pentagon

Links:
[1]
http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/22/3903130/lockheed-machinists-vote-to-strike.html
[2]
http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/04/military-ge-f136-jsf-engine
[3]
http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2011/09/solyndra-vs-military-boondoggles
[4]
http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Lockheed-Martin-Machinist-Strike-in-Texas-148506805.html
[5]
http://washingtontechnology.com/toplists/top-100-lists/2011.aspx
[6]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltway_bandits
[7]
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/reese-schonfeld/mccain-jsf-program_b_1132570.html
[8]
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/09/lockheed-execpay-idUSL2E8E9HVH20120309
[9]
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/05/ceo-executive-pay-layoffs
[10]
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iHcdjqoJHKqgjZyr9yArJjJUePLA?docId=8a58de81a2f5481bb92a4e4fdb0b8967
[11]
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/allen-wests-communist-conspiracy-implicates-woodrow-wilson
[12]
http://www.politico.com/morningdefense/0412/morningdefense479.html

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