Nearly 300 workers at Collins Aerospace’s wheels and brakes division in Troy, Ohio were locked out Monday, Feb. 21, after rejecting the company’s “last, best, and last offer” the previous Friday. company by a margin of 230 to 37. provides wheels and brakes for a number of commercial and military aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, U-2 Dragon Lady and LM-100J. Collins Aerospace is a subsidiary of Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Technologies, a giant aerospace, defense and intelligence conglomerate.
The issues that led to their rejection of the contract, a locked-out worker told the World Socialist Website, centered on “wages, pensions and health care, as always”. Despite staggering profits after the aerospace and airline industry rebounded, the company “wants to nickel and dime us,” he said. Raytheon’s earnings grew 46.42% to around $12.5 billion in 2021.
The lockout of aerospace workers comes amid an intense geopolitical crisis and feverish war propaganda in the media over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the United States and its allies NATO are trying to use as a pretext for a direct military confrontation with nuclear power. -armed power.
The lockout’s potential disruption to the arms industry and the US war campaign have already caused concern in ruling circles. Democratic Congressman from Ohio Tim Ryan, vice chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, released an open letter on February 24 to the CEOs of Collins and Raytheon calling on them to end the lockdown. , stating, “As a member of the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, I am well aware of the critical role that Raytheon and its subsidiary, Collins Aerospace, play in the defense industrial base of the United States. In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to have a stable workforce at our main defense contractors [emphasis added].”
Ryan was one of several members of the US Congress who took part in a Zoom call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in recent days. After the meeting he said: “They need planes and quite frankly I think we have to find a way to get them there. The arming of Ukraine by the United States and NATO and the increasingly belligerent calls by the media and Congress for a no-fly zone over the country threaten to provoke a direct and catastrophic military conflict with the Russia.
As the WSWS has explained, the ruling class in the United States, facing a staggering domestic economic, social and political crisis, seeks to create a false “national unity” through militarism abroad and by channeling tensions against an “external enemy”. in this case, Russia. So the White House and the political establishment, in conjunction with the pro-corporate unions, are increasingly using the war campaign as a pretext to block strikes and settle wage disputes on corporate terms.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union, for its part, is working to keep workers isolated. The UAW’s initial refusal to call a strike at Collins, despite the workers’ overwhelming rejection of the contract, allowed Collins to seize the initiative, excluding the workers from the company’s schedule.
Now UAW officials are telling their members they are prohibited from organizing mass pickets or taking action to keep strikebreakers out of the plant, saying it would jeopardize workers’ chances of receiving unemployment benefits.
In a statement, Collins Aerospace wrote that they “stand ready to continue to negotiate in good faith with UAW Local 128 and seek to reach an agreement that recognizes and rewards the contributions of our employees while we to remain competitive”. Such statements are routinely made by corporations as they seek to slash workers’ living standards and tax multilevel wages and benefits.
Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes, meanwhile, received a $21 million award in 2020. Raytheon’s profits and Hayes’ compensation are likely to swell as the aerospace and military industries benefit from the frenetic rise of the war against Russia pursued by the United States and its NATO Allies.
Another worker told the WSWS that although Collins claims to increase workers’ compensation, they are really just transferring money “from pot to pot.” After the workers studied the cumbersome and complicated contract closely, it became clear that there was no real monetary gain.
The contract attempts to pit workers against workers, hurting new recruits, although it is almost acceptable to veterans. “If it had been just me, I would have approved of it, but I couldn’t leave the others hanging around,” said a picketer with more than 30 years’ experience.
Another worker said Collins called their only contract offered so far “the last and best offer”, but “it’s more like their first and last”.
Despite locking out its entire brake and wheel workforce, Collins says the plant is operating as usual. However, instead of highly skilled and experienced workers, Collins requires many of its office workers, salaried and otherwise, to offset production, posing significant safety concerns for workers and commercial aircraft. In fact, a shipment of parts has already “returned because it was not properly inspected,” said a locked-out worker.
Collins’ 300 workers face a battle on many fronts. Collins Aerospace is exerting significant pressure, and the UAW is working to keep workers in the dark about “negotiations,” while looking for the first opportunity to force a deal, which will inevitably be little changed from the one the workers have. already rejected.
In July 2021, nearly 3,000 striking Volvo Truck workers were forced by the UAW to renege on a concessions deal they had previously rejected. The UAW declared ratification of the contract by a margin of just 17 votes after a highly suspect voting process. In October and November, the UAW then unleashed a similar maneuver on 10,000 striking John Deere workers, combining it with widespread voter intimidation.
In the current situation, the UAW is keeping Collins workers isolated from the countless other aerospace workers who are also looking to raise their standard of living.
In Davenport, Iowa, more than 360 workers at Eaton-Cobham Missions Industries, a defense contractor and supplier of military aircraft refueling systems, are in the third week of their strike. Factory workers bravely rejected two contract proposals between the company and the International Association of Machinists, and Eaton is now threatening to hire permanent replacements.
Each of these fights are not simply disputes over contracts, but rather political fights. More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, capitalism faces workers with a disaster: soaring inflation, rapidly eroding purchasing power, extremely long hours and workplaces that remain unsafe. Now the corporations, the banks and their political representatives in the Democratic and Republican parties are demanding that workers make new sacrifices for their war campaign. Meanwhile, business owners and the financial aristocracy continue to enrich themselves in unimaginable ways.
To break free from UAW-imposed isolation and expand their struggle, the WSWS is urging Collins workers to form rank-and-file strike committees, democratically controlled by the workers themselves. These committees would draw up lists of demands based on the real needs of workers and connect with other workers, including Eaton workers in Davenport, educators in Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, oil refinery workers and beyond – in a common fight for the interests of the working class.