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Lockheed machinist union members reject contract, walk off job for first time in 25 years


MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) _ Machinists at a Lockheed Martin aircraft assembly plant walked off the job early Monday, 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. Workers began picketing at 12:01 a.m. at the plant's gates in Marietta.

``Every member that votes for this proposal is voting to rob his brothers and sisters of their jobs,'' The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted union president Jim Carroll telling members before the vote. ``A raise isn't going to do you any good if they take away your job.''

The Marietta plant produces F-22 Raptor fighters and C-130J transport planes. Members of Local 709 make up more than a third of the 7,000 Lockheed workers in Marietta. Lockheed Martin is the nation's largest defense contractor.

Lockheed spokesman Sam Grizzle said the picket lines are up and ``it's not business as usual.''

``Contingency plans are in place for our customers and we'll have people here making sure we keep our commitments,'' he said without going into specifics about the plans.

On Friday, Lockheed Martin offered the workers a wage increase. But machinists said they were more concerned about job security, pension and health insurance.

Seventy-eight percent of union members in Marietta rejected the company's final offer and 82 percent voted to strike.

Lockheed officials are also in separate talks to avoid a walkout of union workers at plants in Sunnyvale and Palmdale, Calif.

This is the first strike at the Marietta aircraft plant in 25 years.

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 Corporation, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., had sales of $24 billion in 2001, employing about 125,000 people worldwide.
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