MARIETTA — After months of intense negotiations, the machinists’ union representing 2,800 Lockheed Martin employees in Marietta ratified a new four-year labor contract that offers 2.5 percent annual raises and holds the line on health insurance costs.
The old contract expired at midnight Sunday, March 2, and the new one took effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday following an overwhelming ratification of the contract by the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.
The two sides started negotiating in early January, said Perry Gulledge, president of IAM’s Local 709 and chairman of the union’s negotiating committee.
The contract covers 2,800 of the 6,300 employees at Lockheed’s Marietta plant. The remaining 3,500 Marietta employees are either salaried workers who are not part of any union or they belong to other unions or divisions of the IAM.
Lockheed made a “last, best and final offer” last week and members of Local 709 filed into the union hall on South Marietta Parkway to vote between noon and 8 p.m. Sunday.
The union’s negotiating committee recommended the rank and file members ratify the final offer. The Marietta members did so, by an 81 percent margin, on Sunday.
“These contract negotiations have been very stressful for both the Negotiating Committee and the Membership,” according to a message posted on the Local 709 website. The contract covers a total of 4,700 employees at five plants in 10 states, the largest contingent of which is the Marietta plant’s 2,800 covered employees.
“I’m glad it’s over with and we can get back to representing the members that build the greatest aircraft in the world,” said Gulledge.
Highlights of the contract
Employees covered under the contract will get a 3 percent lump sum payout within 60 days of ratification, then they will get 2.5 percent annual wage increases in 2015, 2016 and 2017. They also get a $2,700 signing bonus payable within 60 days.
“We fought for a lot more (of a wage increase). This is what we settled for,” Gulledge said. “And this is what was eventually recommended by me and the committee.”
The company’s contribution to the employee pension plan was increased to $95 per month per year of credited service, an increase from $88 per month under the previous labor contract.
But the biggest sweetener in the pot may have been the four-year length of the deal, because previous contracts have only been for three years, Gulledge said. The other big issue was health insurance.
“That (health insurance) was huge,” Gulledge said. “In our surveys of our membership that was the number one issue they were concerned about.”
The new contract maintains the company’s contribution of 87 percent toward the health maintenance organization premiums that cover company employees. But employees hired or rehired on or after March 3, 2014, will have LM HealthWorks as their only option for health care coverage and will not have the choice of opting for the HMO.
4,700 employees covered nationwide
The new agreement extends to March 4, 2018. It covers more than 4,700 Lockheed Martin employees in seven IAM bargaining units — flight line mechanics, assemblers and support personnel — in Palmdale, Calif.; Marietta; Sunnyvale, Calif.; Meridian, Miss., and other locations.
“We’re pleased that the IAM members ratified this new contract, which provides a fair economic package for our workforce, and positions Lockheed Martin to remain successful in a challenging environment,” said Craig Weller, vice president of Corporate Labor Relations for Lockheed Martin. “This agreement rewards our employees and allows them to continue their critical work on programs vital to our nation’s security.”
Lockheed Martin’s business at the five plants in 10 states includes support for programs under its aeronautics division such as the F-35, F-16, F-22, ADP Programs, U-2, C-130, C-5 and P-3; and Space Systems such as satellite programs of AEHF, MUOS, SBIRS, GPS III and Classified Programs.
An example of the tensions that had built between workers and management at Lockheed was evident on the union’s website two weeks into the negotiations. A memo posted Jan. 14 on the website by Gulledge stated:
I have been informed that the company has just held a meeting with all managers. The subject matter as it was relayed to me was for the managers to bring up contract issues in a casual conversation with employees to see what the feeling is on the floor. They have been then directed to reply to a specific email address for that information to be relayed and compiled by Labor Relations. As I have said in the our last several Union meetings, do not tell them anything. If you must tell them something, tell them that you will strike if the Company does not give us an offer that we expect and deserve!”
The memo closed with an exhortation to “Please get this message out to all of your members in your department!”
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 115,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The company’s net sales for 2013 were $45.4 billion.
The IAM Local 709 is the largest union in Cobb County.
Other unionized companies with sizable workforces in Cobb include UPS and Kroger.