Texas Contractor Wants to Gut Health Care for Nuclear Weapons Workers

More than 500 IAM Local 1255 members and Metal Trades Council workers are striking against Consolidated Nuclear Security Pantex in Amarillo, TX.

Workers at Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) Pantex in Amarillo, TX do a dangerous job that simply has to be done. They’re the folks who test, fix and dismantle nuclear explosives used by the U.S. military.

IAM Local 1255 members Judy McAnear (yellow hat) and Sheila Walter prepare to strike CNS Pantex in Amarillo, TX. McAnear, a production technician, is in charge of all shifts of the strike, while Walter, a quality assurance technician, generated a walk list for over a thousand workers.

So when CNS Pantex recently demanded drastic health care concessions at a worksite that exposes workers to cancer-causing materials, the more than 500 IAM Local 1255 members joined Metal Trades Council workers in striking the contractor. Nearly nine in 10 workers voted to strike.

WATCH: Local TV coverage of the Pantex strike

“Typically what you think of union politics is of thugs and tough guys, but that mentality is not really here,” said David Grant, a Local 1255 member who works as a production technician at CNS Pantex. “We’re just good Texas people.”

CNS Pantex is also demanding the elimination of defined benefit pensions for new members.

“I think my members will stay out and do what they need to do,” said Local 1255 President Robin Harris. “They aren’t faint of heart – they will just get tougher and tougher, and we have all kinds of help.
“We knew this was coming,” said Harris. “We saw what they did to the salary and non-bargaining folks, so we were ready.”

Workers at CNS Pantex are responsible for the nuclear weapons life extension programs; weapons dismantlement; development, testing, and fabrication of high explosives components; and storage and surveillance of plutonium pits.

“CNS Pantex and the U.S. government are playing games with the well-being of people who are doing some of their most dangerous work,” said IAM General Vice President Bob Martinez. “The IAM stands side-by-side with these courageous workers who are trying to defend the American dream for themselves and their families.”

Workers at the plant rejected the company’s final offer before voting to go on strike.

“CNS Pantex tried to buy our members’ benefits in their previous offer,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin. “Our members resoundingly told them their benefits aren’t for sale. The Southern Territory is committed to supporting our members at CNS Pantex.”

VIEW: More photos of the Pantex strike