UAW Local Chief Among 300 Suspended at Douglas

In an ongoing labor dispute, Douglas Aircraft Co. has suspended indefinitely about 300 workers, including deposed United Auto Workers Local 148 President Bob Berghoff, for failing to return to work Monday afternoon.

Many of those workers joined Berghoff in federal court to challenge the UAW International's takeover of Local 148. Others picketed the international's regional office in Artesia, Berghoff said.

After half-day walkouts by thousands of workers in December and January, Douglas had warned employees that they would be suspended if they walked off again, company spokesman Don Hanson said.

The Detroit-based international took control of Local 148 two weeks ago after a hearing on alleged improprieties in the local's aborted May 12-13 election.

The election came after nine months of fruitless contract negotiations between Berghoff-led Local 148 and Douglas, which employs about 22,000 workers at its main plant in Long Beach. Some 9,500 workers are represented by Local 148.

Worker slowdowns have put Douglas weeks behind schedule on aircraft deliveries to airlines. Union members have split on whether to settle the contract, on which key objections have been imposition of medical insurance payments and reorganization of work duties. The international has encouraged settlement.

Douglas' Hanson said that production rebounded in April and May, with 10 airplane deliveries each month compared with usual production of about two a week. Douglas deliveries this year total "more than 30," Hanson said. That compares to an expected production to date of about 45 planes.

At Monday's federal court hearing, U.S. District Judge Wallace Tashima postponed until at least June 23 a decision on Berghoff's request to remove UAW International control of Local 148. Tashima barred the international from holding new elections unless the local consents.

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