Originally created 03/09/99

Mediators try to help avert strike



ATLANTA -- Federal mediators worked Monday with negotiators from Lockheed Martin and its Machinists union in an effort to avert a strike.

Some 4,200 workers were poised to walk out from the Marietta plant at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday if the talks failed to produce an acceptable offer. They would vote Tuesday on any new proposals from the company.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service had talks with the two sides at an undisclosed location Monday.

Union workers voted overwhelmingly Feb. 28 to reject a negotiated settlement and to authorize a strike.

The union leadership had negotiated a deal that provided for three annual raises of 3 percent, but rank and file members disliked health and retirement benefits and work schedule changes in the contract. Job security was also a concern at the plant, which has been under pressure to cut costs.

The International Association of Machinists Local 709 covers a range of employees, including clerical, firefighters and aircraft mechanics. The Machinists' average hourly play is $18 to $19 an hour.

There are also some 5,000 nonunion workers at the plant, which last experienced a strike in 1977.

Lockheed Martin, the largest employer in Cobb County northwest of Atlanta, manufactures the C-130J military cargo plane and is the lead developer of the F-22 stealth fighter jet.