Strike at Bluegrass Station likely to go through Thanksgiving

Workers at Bluegrass Station, on strike since Oct. 1, are likely to be on the picket lines at least through Thanksgiving.

About 170 workers employed by Lockheed Martin subcontractor AllSource Global Management walked out over unfair labor practices, said Bob Wood, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Workers are being asked to take an average pay cut of more than 30 percent, which would make some workers eligible for food stamps, he said.

After a month and a half, about 130 workers remain on strike, Wood said.

"These are families out here, families that are hurting," Wood said. "Over 40 percent are veterans, and they had to stand out on the picket line on Veterans Day, and this shouldn't be happening."

Randy Groth, CEO of AGM of Sierra Vista, Ariz., said the company and the union sat down once with federal mediators last month but have not returned to the negotiating table.

The contractor provides supplies for Army Special Forces; Groth blamed the pay cuts on Defense Department budget cuts that reclassified workers to lower grades of pay in the latest contract.

"The bottom line is ... this is an economic issue across the country. The defense budget has been cut significantly," Groth said. "It's rolled downhill."

In the meantime, Groth said, "It's business as usual for us. About 33 people have crossed the picket line and we've hired some more people."

Groth said he hoped to get back to negotiations before the holidays.

"We're anxious to get back to the table. We're a business. I'm not sure anything will happen before Thanksgiving," he said. "I'm hoping before Christmas we can get back together."

Wood, of the union, which represents 226,000 workers nationally who work under more than 455 contracts, said Bluegrass workers have yet to see the contract spelling out those cuts, something the National Labor Relations Board has ordered AGM to provide.

"This is the only contract where they are trying to cut our wages," Wood said. "Every other contract we are getting raises across the country. ... This is an important thing. These families deserve a decent Thanksgiving and not to be standing out on the picket line on Thanksgiving. Mr. Groth needs to either prove it's driven by the government or put everybody back to work."

Groth said he doesn't know about other contracts, just his.

"Our contract got cut," Groth said. "I've got to move the employees into the new classifications. ... It's terrible, it's hard for us, for the employees, but we've got to live with it."