New Workers Escorted By Police Past Picket Lines
SEATTLE (AP) _ Hundreds of union workers locked out of their jobs jeered replacement workers hired Monday by Lockheed Shipbuilding, then went to the Capitol and appealed to legislators for unemployment benefits.
″Many of our members are facing bankruptcy,″ said Tom Lewiston, chairman of the rank-and-file Committee for Locked Out Workers. ″Many have lost their homes. We need some relief.″
The shipbuilding company locked out 900 union workers Nov. 17 after insisting its union employees accept a 25 percent pay cut. Lockheed has said it needs lower labor costs to compete with other companies.
The 60 new hires who reported for work at Lockheed in Seattle on Monday received harsh words and catcalls as police escorted them through the shipyard’s gates.
″There was a lot of yelling and screaming, but other than that everything was peaceful,″ said Nate Ford, president of the Pacific Coast Metal Trades Council.
″Police created a pathway for people to get to work, which we appreciated,″ said John Hayes, administrative vice president for Lockheed.
After the protest, some union members drove to Olympia, where the Legislature began its session Monday. Unions are lobbying for changes in unemployment laws that would allow workers to receive unemployment payments when they are victims of lockouts, Ford said.
The state has denied unemployment benefits, saying the law forbids paying benefits unless it can be shown that Lockheed is operating at 90 percent capacity.
About 100 union members showed up on the steps of the Capitol. Lewiston said the turnout was in support of a proposed bill to change the law.
Lockheed’s offer to its unionized workers still stands, Hayes said. That offer, made Oct. 10, cuts pay and benefits by about 25 percent. A journeyman employee would earn $11 instead of $13.50.
Hayes said there have been no negotiations since the Oct. 10 offer was made, and that officials of the 11 unions involved, bargaining under the umbrella of the Metal Trades Council, have not contacted the company.
However, Ford said workers had agreed to return to work at whatever pay would be provided, while negotiations continued. But he said Lockheed has no intentions of bargaining further.
Union employees rejected the contract offer in December by a 96 percent margin.
Hayes said he expected to have 200 replacement workers hired by the end of the week, and 400 to 450 by the middle or end of February. Lockheed has a regular non-union work force of about 450, he said.