Pantex strikers see support
Amarillo, TX - Pantex said it was business as usual Monday despite nearly 1,200 employees not showing up to work.
Hundreds of metal trades workers lined Highway 60 as the sun rose so employees going into work at Pantex could see they are standing strong with solidarity.
Some cars honked to show support and picketers waved back, showing a mutual respect despite the circumstances.
"Typically what you think of union politics is of thugs and tough guys, but that mentality is not really here," said David Grant, a production technician at Pantex. "We're just good Texas people."
The Metal Trades Council (MTC) union members are fighting to keep their health benefits due to the hazardous working conditions that come with the job. "There's no sense to get rowdy about it," said Grant. "We're just here to stand and show them what we're standing for."
During the strike, the Pantex Guard Union (PGU) is setting up a food bank to help their fellow coworkers even though they can't stand beside them on the picket line. "Because in 2007 when we were on strike, several members of the Metal Trades Council put up a food bank for us to help us while we were going through our strike," said Randy Schlegel, a member of the PGU. "We wanted to do something to show support and solidarity for them."
The PGU will be collecting donations every Monday from 6 to 8 at a different grocery store location because the union saw first hand the impact a strike can have on families. "We had a lot of folks that had small children and the food bank was a big help in getting us through that," said Schlegel.
Contract negotiations between the MTC and Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), contracted to run Pantex, are at a standstill, so it is unknown how long the strike will last. "Pantex operations remain safe and stable," said George Rangel, a spokesperson for CNS. "Work continues to ensure that the safety and security of our workforce, neighboring communities and environment are maintained at the highest levels."
Union members will picket 24 hours a day, completing four-hour shifts until the strike ends.
Madison Alewel - NewsChannel 10
Statement from Consolidated Nuclear Security:
The Pantex Metal Trades Council (MTC) has notified us that its membership voted last Thursday to not ratify the company's proposal for a new labor agreement. The current collective bargaining agreement with the MTC expired at midnight Friday, and the MTC has chosen to strike.
We and the rest of the CNS senior management team have great respect for the work performed by the dedicated employees of Pantex and Y-12. Across a broad array of jobs and functions, we all serve critical roles on the front lines of global nuclear security. Our nation depends on us to do our job with excellence every day. The sense of importance and responsibility is very tangible to us, as is the pride that we see in all of you, your families, and the community when it comes to our role protecting and serving this great nation. Our MTC-represented employees equally share in this pride and service to the nation, and we ask that everyone respect them during this difficult time.
Our responsibility to the nation always hinges on a unique balance. We do very special things for the nation, things that no one else does, and we expect to be recognized for this. At the same time, our work is accomplished spending taxpayer dollars and it is incumbent upon each of us to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us to do our work and to ensure a sustainable future for our sites. Tax dollars are used for all aspects of our work, including funding programs, engineering, research, procurements, maintenance, security, safety, other essential business functions, as well as employees' salaries and benefits. Therefore, the challenge is to appropriately balance the recognition of the roles of our employees in accomplishing our unique mission while being respectful of taxpayer funds.
Throughout this contract it has been our sincere desire to maintain wages and benefits that appropriately recognize the important work performed at our sites. However, as has been stated in prior communications, our initial set of changes had greater impact on those involved than was originally anticipated. We are in the process of rolling out an upgraded package for next year in an effort to improve this situation. We worked to reflect this revised approach in the MTC package so that we remain in a very strong position when compared to other industries in the sites' regions and across the country, including pension programs and other benefits.
We are disappointed that we were not able to achieve an agreement with the MTC. We have acted in good faith with the MTC negotiating team and attempted to find the balance discussed above between rewards and our responsibility to the taxpayers. It is a priority to work together with the MTC to promote the health, safety, and professional growth of its members as well as the long-term viability of Pantex and the local community. After nearly seven months of negotiations, however, our efforts to map out a new contract, resolve identified issues, and stretch our ability to enhance certain areas of the proposal have not resulted in an agreement. We revised our best and final offer last Thursday to what we understood would best achieve the desires and constraints of all parties, and with the strike, we now know that there remains a disconnect between what we are in a position to provide and what MTC members desire.
Pantex will operate in a safe and stable mode this week and throughout the work stoppage. We know this work stoppage will create extra responsibilities requiring additional time for many of you, and we sincerely appreciate your willingness to fill in where needed to keep the plant functioning. We ask that you be mindful of the importance of your role and seek to perform it with the safety, security, quality, and overall excellence that our nation requires. As always, we thank you for your dedication and service to our nation. We will keep you informed as the contract situation with the MTC continues to develop.
Jim Haynes, President and CEO
Morgan Smith, COO