Strike Underway at Lockheed

At the stroke of midnight, at least 130 union workers from the Lockheed Martin plant in Marion, Miss. officially walked off the job.

Since that time they have been pounding the pavement in shifts, picketing what they call an unfair contract proposal by company officials.

"We're out here to get a cap on the insurance for the retirees, for us that are employed, and for the ones that will come behind us," said Jimmie Irby.

As part of a contract proposal, Lockheed recommended signing bonuses for employees, higher healthcare premiums for workers to pay, and eliminating medical benefits for new hires from this point forward. Union members have objected.

"I figure anybody who gives the company 30 years like that should have some kind of health insurance or benefit insurance like retirement and stuff like that," said Fred Dozier, who picketed Tuesday.

However, company officials call the agreement very fair, citing what it calls a dilemma for companies nationwide, which are faced with rising healthcare costs. The company also points out that no company other than Lockheed, in the aerospace industry, offers medical retiree benefits for former workers over the age of 65.

As for defending the effort to eliminate retiree benefits for new hires, Lockheed officials say the company has offered to pay a $25 contribution quarterly to a "Basic Benefit Plan" for new workers.

Workers say they also face rising healthcare costs.

"They make millions and we make hundreds for our effort to work for them, but they don't want to come off any of their money to make us happy with what we're doing."

Last month, Lockheed officials said union members at two plants in California approved the contract and are now still at work.

For workers at the Lockheed plants in Marietta, Ga., Clarksburg, West Va., and Marion who are now on strike, company officials say their pay and benefits have been put on hold.

Strikers told Newscenter 11 they are in for the long haul.