Source: Knoxville News Sentinel | Frank Munger | August 29, 2015

Union workers at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant — a sister plant to Y-12 in Oak Ridge — this week rejected a final contract offer and voted to go on strike, effective at midnight Friday.

The strike by more than 1,100 workers at the national security site received the necessary blessing of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO in Washington, and it reportedly will be the first strike by the main workforce at Pantex since 1970.

Pantex and Y-12 are managed by Consolidated Nuclear Security, a Bechtel-led contractor team, and union negotiations at Y-12 have been on hold for months while the situation at Pantex played out.

CNS and the 10-union Metal Trades Council at Pantex have been in negotiations, off and on, since early this year.

Clarence Rashada, president of the umbrella labor group, said union workers were upset by proposed cuts to their benefits, and he said that was the primary reason for the 3-to-1 rejection of CNS’s final contract offer and their vote — with a two-thirds majority — to strike.

“The crowd is angry,” Rashada said.

The union chief said the two sides got back together at the bargaining table after the Pantex workers rejected the company’s “best and final” offer in early August.

Rashada said union negotiators submitted a counterproposal to CNS, and he said CNS ultimately provided another “best and final” contract offer.

He acknowledged there were some significant changes in the final offer, including 3 percent wage increases for each of four years, and he said CNS accepted some of the union requests.

“It wasn’t the best contract, but it was better than the initial (proposal),” Rashada said.

However, he said hourly workers were so upset he’s not sure they would have approved anything that subtracted benefits from the previous contract. Workers didn’t feel like CNS had the right to come in and change things, he said.

“They want their contract back,” Rashada said.

About a half-dozen picket lines were scheduled to be set up at Pantex, starting at 12:01 a.m. today, he said.

CNS executive Michelle Reichert sent a message to Pantex employees Friday, emphasizing work at the plant will continue despite any work stoppage by the unions, and she said there would be work available for all employees — including any of those from the Metal Trades Council.

The collective bargaining agreement for many union workers at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant is due to expire Sept. 21, and it’s not clear when negotiations between CNS and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council in Oak Ridge will begin or how the strike the Pantex may affect the plans.