By ERNIE GOTTA
Some 55 members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501, who work at the Arrowhead Products aerospace plant in Los Alamitos, Calif., in the Los Angeles area, have been on strike since Thursday, Nov. 10. The walk-out followed an impasse with the company over wages, health care, and vacation time.
The strikers are skilled aerospace welders. Despite being a profitable company in an industry that upholds extremely high-quality production standards, Arrowhead Products pays these skilled workers below the industry standard for welders. As Juan Rivas, a worker at Arrowhead Products, explains, “For many years we have been mistreated, our hourly rate is pretty much like a fitter who never went to school and never got certified in anything. Yet we are D17.1 certified and have years of experience.”
Rivas continued, “We have never been on a strike and the company was for sure thinking that we would accept a contract changed for the worse with less benefits.” (Readers can view a video of the picket line at the Arrowhead plant uploaded by the striking workers to Tiktok.)
Workers at the plant manufacture ducting systems that are used as component parts in commercial aerospace, defense production, and space vehicles. Wages are a priority for these workers, who have been hit hard by skyrocketing inflation.
Sometimes it might be hard to understand how a profitable company like Arrowhead can disregard the needs of the workers who make the company profitable. Yet here we find a company that wants concessions from workers who have no pension and live in an economic climate where 401k’s have been reduced by a quarter or more over the past year.
Workers are also demanding that the company improve health insurance benefits provided to workers and refrain from increasing costs. Vacation benefits are another contentious area during negotiations. The company wants to tie vacations to a ludicrous plan that makes workers accrue time over a one-year period.
Arrowhead Products is more than capable of delivering on the demands of union members. According to the striking workers, this is the first strike at Arrowhead Products since the company opened in 1937.
We are calling on all readers and supporters to stand in solidarity with members of IUOE Local 501 in their fight for a fair contract. You can join the picket line 6:30AM to 2PM at 4411 Katella Ave., Los Alamitos, CA 90720. We also encourage readers to send solidarity pictures or messages to Local 501 to be posted on social media.
Photo from striking worker Juan Rivas.