FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The nearly six-week strike at Bell Helicopter ended Wednesday after the union representing about 2,500 manufacturing workers approved a new four-year contract.
United Auto Workers Local 218 members voted on a contract that Bell had presented during negotiations Tuesday. The vote was about 1,326 to 643, said union chairman Tom Wells.
"The membership stuck together, and they're strong," Wells said. "In the Texas summer sun, getting paid $200 a week isn't how you want to spend your vacation. But I'm proud of this membership."
Union members have stopped picketing, Wells said. They will report back to work to their regular shifts on Monday, according to company officials.
Dick Millman, president and CEO of Bell Helicopter Textron Inc., said he was pleased that an agreement was reached.
"For us to continue to be successful, especially during these challenging economic times, we need our entire work force fully engaged in meeting our customer requirements so we're very happy to have the Bell team back together," Millman said in a statement.
In mid-June, union members rejected a three-year contract because of proposed increases in medical costs and plans to outsource janitors' work. That vote led to the strike at several Dallas-Fort Worth area plants.
The new contract made changes to that lessened the medical costs and increased wages even more in the fourth year, Wells said. Although Bell still will outsource janitors' work, the company said it will try to offer them other jobs, Wells said.
The new contract proposal came during the fifth time both sides had negotiated since the strike began.
Tensions rose as the weeks wore on. Last week, A nonunion Bell employee was arrested after hitting two picketers with his car while pulling into a plant entrance. Neither union member was seriously injured.
"After six weeks of this, it's going to be hard to mend fences," Wells said. "But I feel confident that people will conduct themselves in a professional manner. They'll show Bell the reason why we think our work force is the best."
Bell's parent company is Rhode Island-based Textron Inc.
Workers at the plants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area produce parts, components and assemblies for all Bell aircraft, including the V-22 Osprey and H-1 military helicopters as well as the company's civilian models. The military aircraft are assembled in Amarillo and the civilian aircraft in Mirabel, Canada. The contract doesn't cover workers at either of those facilities.