Strikers Hope March Sends Clear Message To Northrop Grumman Leaders - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Strikers Hope March Sends Clear Message To Northrop Grumman Leaders

It was hard to see through the morning fog, but the message of 1,000 marchers was clear.

"What we gonna get? More money!" union members chanted as they marched across a bridge.  

Members of all 15 unions at Northrop Grumman's Ingalls Shipyard put on their walking shoes for a six mile trek from their "strike zone." They passed over the Highway 90 bridge and through downtown Pascagoula's historic streets.

"Six miles is a lot, but maybe that will show the company we're willing to do whatever it takes to get the money that we need," pipe welder Kimberly Huckaby says.

As welders, pipefitters and electricians pounded the pavement, pipefitter Sabrina Austin focused on some numbers to keep her motivated.

"Five dollars, two dollars, two dollars!" she yelled, holding a sign declaring just what kind of pay raise she'd like to see. 

She says those are the kind of numbers it will take to get striking workers back on the job.

Northrop Grumman's current contract proposal is for $1.40 an hour raise the first year, and 55 cents an hour in each of the last two years.

"We are willing to go the miles together. Whatever it takes for more money, and to show Mr. Teel we'll go the distance," Austin says.  

Northrop President Philip Teel has not commented on the strikers' demands. And right now, neither the company nor the unions have any more contract negotiations planned.

"I'm marching for what's right," another union member says.  

Electrician Kenny Hamilton wrapped himself in an American flag. He says it's a reminder to all that the work done at Northrop Grumman has an impact well beyond South Mississippi.

"We're building for Americans. We are Americans, and we need to get paid like Americans," Hamilton says. 

Northrop Grumman released a statement about the strike Monday afternoon.

"This strike is unfortunate; it is costly to our employees and their families, to the local economy, to our shareholders, and most importantly to our customers. We believe our offer was fair and competitive. It was our desire that this labor agreement addresses the financial challenges of Katrina and we believe the proposed contract did just that. In fact, the contract was ratified at three of our facilities in New Orleans, Tallulah and Gulfport, areas also hard hit by the storm. In addition to the wage increase, the benefits our employees enjoy far surpass any other opportunities available on the Gulf Coast. We're hopeful that this will be resolved quickly and put behind us."

There's still no word on when contract negotiations may resume. 

The last time Northrop Grumman workers went on strike was in 1999. That strike lasted nearly three weeks.

By Keli Rabon

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