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Two Months Into Strike, Lockheed Machinists To Vote On New Deal

The aerospace company reached a tentative agreement with the union that represents 3,600 striking employees.

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — After more than two months on strike, Lockheed Martin machinists are expected to vote this week on a new labor contract after a tentative deal was reached with the company.

Lockheed officials announced late Saturday that after four days of negotiations, the aerospace company reached a tentative agreement with the union that represents 3,600 striking employees. No terms were disclosed.

"Lockheed Martin's revised offer will be unanimously recommended for acceptance by the union bargaining committee to the membership at the ratification vote early next week," Greg Karol, company vice president of labor relations, said in a statement. "We look forward to having them back on the job, building the world's best fighters."

Officials with Fort Worth-based Machinists Local 776 did not immediately return calls seeking comment Sunday.

Union members went on strike April 23, a day after overwhelmingly rejecting Lockheed's latest contract offer. Members said they opposed the company's proposed changes to the health care plans — including higher deductibles and co-payments — and the plan to eliminate pensions for newly hired workers.

At the time, the company said it believed that the offer, which included wage increases of 3 percent each year, a $3,000 signing bonus and increased retirement income for current workers, was fair.

In May, Lockheed Martin hired temporary workers at its Fort Worth aircraft assembly plant, which makes F-35 stealth fighter jets. Officials wouldn't say how many replacement workers were brought in, but said they were not viewed as permanent replacements.

Most union members on strike work at the Fort Worth plant. The flight test centers at Edwards Air Force Base in California and Patuxtent River Naval Air Station in Maryland both have fewer than 150 union members.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 776 represents about a quarter of the 14,000 workers at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant. Those on strike do most of the aircraft assembly and manufacturing work on the F-35 and F-16 fighter jets or service the machines and facilities.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a supersonic stealth jet and is the nation's most advanced and expensive weapons program. Concerns about its safety, cost overruns and questions about the entire program's feasibility have delayed pilot training and caused increased scrutiny by the Pentagon and Congress.

Costing between $65 million and $100 million each, depending on the version, the F-35 is described as a generational leap from older fighter jets. The single-seat aircraft can fly at speeds of about 1,050 mph.