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More than 400 Sandia workers may go on strike

Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque Journal file)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The union that represents 430 Sandia National Laboratories employees has voted to authorize them to go on strike after rejecting Sandia’s “last, best and final offer” during routine negotiations, a lab spokeswoman said Saturday.

Sandia spokeswoman Heather Clark said the Metal Trades Council rejected the lab’s proposal on Friday night.

“A strike authorization does not mean a strike is imminent, and the MTC has not notified the Labs that its members will go on strike,” Clark wrote in an emailed statement. “A strike authorization vote by the union membership is common practice during negotiations.”

The final version of the three-year contract — the first to be negotiated between the union and Honeywell International, the lab’s new managing contractor — offered general wage increases, lump sum payments and a $2,000 ratification bonus, according to Sandia’s website.

But Jim Price, director of government employees for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and who supported negotiations, said the contract is not acceptable.

“I don’t think that it’s something that the people of the MTC, those who live here in Albuquerque, can live with,” Price said. “They expressed that with their vote.”

Price said the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the authorization.

He said employees do plan on going back to work on Monday.

The Atomic Projects and Production Workers Metal Trades Council has represented Sandia workers for nearly 70 years.

“Sandia is in the DNA of these workers. Generation after generation of trades workers have committed themselves to the national security mission at Sandia,” said Jimmy Hart, president of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, who was also in Albuquerque supporting negotiations. “When a new company comes into town and doesn’t really appreciate that, it lends itself to some disharmony.”

Hart said he did not want to specify the reasons for the rejection of the contract, as negotiations may be ongoing.

Though a strike is now an option open to the union, Hart said it would be preferable to reach an agreement through negotiations.

“We, the members of your collective bargaining committee, have decided that we should continue to work and allow labor and management to try to achieve a fair and equitable agreement,” a statement from the Atomic Projects and Production Workers Metal Trades Council said. “It is our intention to impress upon the employer that they have not met the expectations of the membership and that we want an agreement, and are ready, willing and able to exercise any and all options to achieve our goals.”

Employees represented by MTC are largely responsible for the care of Sandia’s facilities and infrastructure, Clark said.

“We do have a contingency plan in place to ensure we carry out our national security mission,” Clark said, should a strike occur.

Clark said they went on strike in 1999 for 13 days. That strike was over pensions, job classification and pay issues, according to an Aug. 13, 1999, Journal article.