Reporting Joel Thomas
FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Members of UAW 218 walked off their jobs at Bell Helicopter in Fort Worth Friday morning starting a strike over overtime, pensions and health care costs. Friday afternoon, picketers holding signs reading “On Strike / Unfair Business Practices” marched along the entrance of the Bell plant in 100 degree temperatures.
“The heat don’t bother me,” one protestor said when asked about the sweltering conditions. “What bothers me is the people inside who are treating us unfair. They don’t want to negotiate with us!”
Occasionally passing motorists honked in support of the union members who walked off their jobs just after midnight. The union was in negotiations with Bell since April.
The talks continued even after the last labor contract expired in June, but broke off suddenly Thursday.
Union members say they’re bracing for a long strike.
“You have to sock away some money and you have to be prepared for this or you’ll be left out in the cold,” said member Kelly Moore. “There’s a lot of people who are hurting right now because of this but they’re fighting for their jobs.”
In a written statement, Bell claims it was the union who failed to negotiate in earnest and that production would continue.
Here is the statement from Bell Spokesman Bill Schroeder:
“We are disappointed the UAW chose to strike. We met at the negotiating table yesterday – only the fourth time the Union has come to the table since the contract expired in early June. Union officials informed us yesterday they planned to return to negotiations on October 3.
Our customers are our highest priority – delivering on our commitments remains our focus.
We are executing our Business Continuation Plan and will continue operations with qualified Bell Helicopter employees and contract augmentation workers to perform critical duties and keep the manufacturing lines operating.
The Company remains willing to negotiate with the Union and believes it is in everyone’s best interests to continue to work. We urge the Union to quickly return to the negotiating table to reach an agreement that meets the needs of our customers and employees, and helps all of us win in the marketplace.”
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