Northrop Grumman workers react to contract extension

By Patrice Clark- bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) – Northrop Grumman workers have agreed to accept the company's latest contract extension. Turnout was low for Tuesday's vote.  More than 2300 people voted for the two year agreement, while about 276 voted against it.

Shipbuilders from more than a dozen unions left the yard and trekked to the Civic Center to vote on the two year contract extension.

"Some saying I like it, some saying I don't like it," Metal Trades Vice President Grady Bryant said about workers' feeling on the contract. "It could have been better, or it could be worse."

Bryant represents more than 7,000 workers with strong opinions.  Under Northrop Grumman's new contract terms, journeymen will earn two 55 cent raises until March 2012. They will also get a $1,000 bonus to replace the cost of living raise.  Health insurance rates and coverage will not change.

"The good of it is we will be working for the next two years with some money in your pocket," Bryant said.

This contract vote is very different from the one three years ago.  Many of the shipbuilders went on strike for 28 days to fight for more money and benefits.  Electrician Charles Bowman said he was on the strike line back then. Now he is in favor of the new deal.

"People can't really afford to go on strike today," Bowman said. "I don't think it'd really do us any good. I think we better stay where we are at."

Workers like Kristen Philips disagree.  She said she voted no because Northrop Grumman could have come up with more.

"They got plenty of money. Why don't they share some with us?" Philips said. "The upper management, the presidents, they are not hurting for anything. We are the ones out there building the boats and struggling to make a living."

Brenda Chambers said she understands both points of view, but in this bad economy, no one could afford even a week without a paycheck.

"It may not be the best thing that everybody is looking for, but I think it is a good thing, right now," Chambers said.

Vice President and General Manager of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Irwin F. Edenzon said he's pleased workers accepted the contract.  In statement to WLOX News he said, "This contract extension helps us maintain our production momentum as we work toward improving our financial predictability for our customers, our company and our shareholders."

The contract extension impacts workers in Pascagoula and Gulfport, as well as those at Northrop Grumman's Louisiana shipyards.

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