- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 12, 2002

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) Larry Edge had been at his post on the picket line outside the Lockheed Martin aircraft-assembly plant for nearly seven hours yesterday, but he wasn't ready to leave.
"I've been here since 4:30 this morning," said Mr. Edge, who lives in Covington, Ga. "And I'm staying until 4 this afternoon. I'm doing a double shift."
Machinists began picketing at 12:01 a.m. yesterday at the plant's gates in Marietta, citing a lack of job security. Members of the International Association of Machinists Local 709 turned down a three-year contract proposal on Sunday that would have raised wages 10 percent and provided workers with $1,000 signing bonuses.
Seventy-eight percent of union members in Marietta rejected the company's final offer, and 82 percent voted to strike. This is the first strike at the plant in 25 years.
Union workers at the Lockheed Martin aircraft-assembly plant near Clarksburg, W.Va., also hit the picket lines. Fifty-seven of the plant's 68 workers were off the job, essentially shutting down the assembly line. Those who reported to work are salaried, said plant manager Buddy Clark.
Dozens of machinists at the Lockheed Martin plant in Meridian, Miss., also walked off their jobs yesterday. Joyce Williams, president of the local union, said Meridian employees voted to accept the company's latest contract offer, but still are striking to support the 2,700 union workers in Marietta.
Lockheed officials avoided a walkout at plants in Sunnyvale and Palmdale, Calif., when union workers ratified agreements Sunday. At Lockheed's headquarters in Bethesda, company spokesman Jim Fetig said union employees were back to work yesterday at both plants.
"Essentially, those contracts were the same as the ones that we offered here in Marietta," said company spokesman Sam Grizzle.
Not so, said Mr. Edge.
"They're offering us less," he said. "I don't know they've got it in for us."
About 40 workers scattered to cover each of the Marietta plant's five entrances, watching for "scabs" who crossed the picket line. License-plate numbers of suspicious cars were written down, and pictures were taken of FedEx drivers who made deliveries
"If they're union drivers, they're not supposed to cross a line on their routes," said Russ Yorke of Dallas.
The Marietta plant produces F-22 Raptor fighters and C-130J transport planes. Members of Local 709 make up more than one-third of the 7,000 Lockheed workers in Marietta. Lockheed Martin is the nation's largest defense contractor.
Last year, Lockheed won the largest defense aerospace contract in history: a $200 billion contract to build the F-35, or Joint Strike Fighter, for the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The Air Force also placed long-term orders for F-22s and C-130Js manufactured locally.
Lockheed Martin Corp. had sales of $24 billion in 2001, employing about 125,000 people worldwide.

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