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Lockheed Martin Machinists Strike
NEW YORK — Machinists at Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Fort Worth, Texas, operations, where the world's largest defense contractor makes its popular F-16 fighter aircraft, went on strike Monday after voting to reject a contract offer from the company.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 776 unit, which represents the 2,800 striking workers at the Lockheed facility, said the strike involves 2,300 current employees and 500 who lost their jobs under recent layoffs.

On Monday morning, workers were picketing outside the Fort Worth facilities and all workers were striking, according to Steve Sleigh, IAM director of strategic resources, who was involved in the talks.

The workers rejected the contract offer even though it was recommended by union negotiators on Friday. "We felt pretty good about bringing it to the members," Sleigh said.

But the membership wanted more, with the biggest remaining issues being a cost-of-living adjustment formula and a lack of a severance provision, he said.

As of Monday morning there were no meetings scheduled between management and the union, Lockheed spokesman Joe Stout said. "We were very disappointed that the members did not accept the contract," he added.

Lockheed shares lost 9/16, to 20-1/2, in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The striking machinists work mostly on the F-16 operations, doing assembly and maintenance on the single-engine combat jet, versions of which are owned by the U.S. and numerous foreign governments.

The company, which has its main headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, offered wage increases for the three-year contract of four percent in the first year and three percent for each of the remaining years, Sleigh said. It also offered a 25 percent increase in the pension benefit.

With overtime, the average machinist at Fort Worth earned about $41,000 last year, Sleigh said.

The Lockheed spokesman said it was too early to say what kind of impact the strike could have on operations. The company is on a fairly low level of F-16 production compared to last year, at about four aircraft a month, he said.

The Fort Worth operations are part of Lockheed's Aeronautical Systems segment, which represents about 22 percent of Lockheed's net sales. Headquarters are in Fort Worth, and there are also significant operations in Marietta, Ga., and Palmdale, Calif.

In addition to the F-16, the segment makes the F-22 fighter, the C-130J transport plane and the X-33 reusable launch vehicle, and is developing the joint strike fighter, a huge and yet-to-be-awarded U.S. government contract.

At the end of last year Lockheed had 147,000 employees, a fifth of whom were covered by collective bargaining agreements. There are about 10,500 workers at Fort Worth.

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