Lockheed Martin announced that it had hired 300 temporary workers to replace striking union employees at its Fort Worth plant. 3,300 union workers went on strike on April 23. The workers are striking over the company’s proposed changes to their health benefits and a plan to stop offering a traditional pension to new employees. Union officials said their resolve would not be weakened by the company’s actions. Lockheed is the nation’s largest military contractor.
The factory where the strike is taking place builds the new F-35 strike fighter aircraft. The plant also builds an older model of the aircraft, the F-16, for foreign countries that would like to purchase them. The company has been using salaried workers to keep building the planes and it started bringing in temporary workers during the end of May. The company is using an employment agency to find candidates who had prior experience working in aerospace plants. The company said that it could hire up to 2,000 more temporary employees if the strike continues through the summer.
Bob Wood, a spokesman for District Lodge 776 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said that hiring the temporary workers “is a waste of taxpayer money.” He continued, “It’s a dog and pony show,” commenting that the union workers received extensive training to work on the F-35 while the temporary workers were trained for only a day or two. He said, “That’s like saying somebody built a Cessna, and now they’re going to walk in and build the F-35.”
The union has filed a series of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board since the strike began. Several complaints involve charges that Lockheed had engaged in unfair labor practices. In one filing, the union alleged that the company moved work on the F-35’s wings to its plant in Marietta, Ga., as a way of “interfering with, restraining and coercing” the striking workers. The company responded that it planned to make that move before the strike began.