Machinist union to bargain for Lake City employees

More than 1,700 employees at the federally owned Lake City Army Ammunition Plant have voted to have the Machinists union represent them in labor negotiations.

The election, conducted in early November by the National Labor Relations Board, produced 841 votes in favor of representation by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and 725 against.

There were 1,731 employees eligible to vote. Votes to unionize more than 1,000 employees are rare nationally, with only a few taking place each year.

“This is a big deal. People have been trying to organize that plant a long time and have failed. These guys have succeeded,” said Judy Ancel, director of the Worker Education and Labor Studies program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Machinists Local Lodge 778 announced the election results on its website. It said it will represent 1,706 maintenance and production employees at the plant. Lodge officials were not available for comment.

The plant in Independence is operated by Alliant Techsystems, widely known as ATK.

“We expect to begin the negotiation process next year and look forward to achieving agreement with the (Machinists) on a contract that is good for the company and the affected employees,” Bryan Kidder, an ATK spokesman, said in an email. “Operations at the facility are expected to continue as usual during the negotiations.”

Kidder said the talks were likely to continue “well into” the company’s next fiscal year, which starts April 1.

ATK had conducted a voluntary layoff at the plant earlier this year. At the time, the company said investments had made the operation more efficient in its production of small arms ammunition. Reduced military actions also contributed to the cutback, the company had said.

The Virginia-based company has operated the plant since April 2000.