Local writer calls out Lockheed’s Fort Worth “gravy train”

E.R. Bills calls himself a “blue-collar guy”, a part-timefreelance writer and a full-time construction labourer, with past experienceworking at the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth.


Thanks to an incendiary opinion column yesterday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram,calling out slack working habits at the Lockheed factory, Bills may also addwhistleblower and community lightning rod to his list.


It’s not every day you see a newspaper and a writer taking oneof the town’s largest employers to task in such critical terms. For example, Billswrites in the column headlined “Slacking on the taxpayer’s dime“:


If you walk into Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth plant at any time on any givenworkday, you’ll find an inordinate number of employees doing anything exceptwork. You’ll see people asleep in fuselages; taking repeated, extended coffeebreaks; discussing the sports page; playing dominoes; and watching the clock.Anything to pass the time and make the day.


It’s the ultimate gravy train, and you and I foot the bill.


Things have been that way out there for years, even backwhen the place was called General Dynamics. For the last few decades, only anembarrassing cross-section of the folks who work out there actually perform anhonest day’s labor and, in Lockheed Martin’s case, this probably speaks to whyits infamous Marine One helicopter and F-35 joint strike fighter are behindschedule and over budget.

I called Bills yesterday to find out how the community hasreacted to such criticisms.


Bills says he’s not “terribly bashful about saying things”. Hesays the working habits at “places like Bell Helicopter and LockheedMartin” have been the same and well-known in the community for many years. The most annoying part about it, for him, is that theworkers are “mostly conservative Republicans … and it’s just very hypocriticalto me”.


“I am getting a lot of bad feedback. I didn’t know the unionis coming up for contract negotiations in two weeks. The editor has said watchyour back because they are p—–,” Bills said.


Bills freely admits it’s been several years since he’swalked inside the Fort Worthfactory. But he has several friends who continue to work at the plant, and theytell him things are still the same.


“When I was out there it was a joke. You have to take twobreaks. It’s hard to get anything done. My experience was I saw working up highin the plant and looking out in the plant … people are asleep in fuselages. And,you know what, they don’t even deny it. I’ve gotten notes today from employees,and they just asked, ‘Did you ask him if it was his break time’? They know. Andsame thing with the dominos. They’ll just tell you, ‘Sometimes we have to waiton material.’ Sometimes there is that. And there are hard working people outthere. But there’s a lot of goofing off.


“It’s a legitimate gripe as a taxpayer.”


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6 Responses to Local writer calls out Lockheed’s Fort Worth “gravy train”

  1. CC 24 March, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    As a supplier to LMCO (never worked there), this is an over-exaggeration to be sure, as LMCO has cleaned up a large part of this past problem. One has to understand the nature of aerospace work, that it is a job shop. It’s no different on any aircraft assembly line. Fact is, you can’t produce aircraft like you do cars.

    Also, I’m aware that most of the “over budget” issues are due to constructive changes ordered by our wonderful bureaucrats, and not the fault of LMCO.

  2. maguro 24 March, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    What does the fact that these workers are “conservative Republicans” have to do with anything? Sounds like another guy with a political ax to grind.

  3. ELP 24 March, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    My brother worked at a GM plant for years. He would take me in there at times and I saw the same thing. Pretty funny.

  4. CR 24 March, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

    Union work at it’s finest…….

  5. SMSgt Mac 25 March, 2009 at 7:39 am #

    Hmmmm. I’m out of town right now but I’ll keep an eye for future news of Mr Bills soon in the Weatherford Democrat.

    If Mr Bills hasn’t been in the plant for a couple of years then he has NO idea what the floor in the main plant looks like these days. F-16 production used to pretty much fill the mile-long building. The production facilities ranged from piece-part machining and fab at one end progressing to subassembly and then final assembly (and some F-22 subassembly) at the other end.
    Just a couple of years ago, 70-80% of the plant floor would have still been in transition to the F-35 production layout. I imagine the last time Mr Bills was in the plant, he was looking at a plant and activities that were very much in transition.

    LOVED the ‘Republicans’ canard BTW. This has to be the first time I’ve ever read Conservatism being blamed for ‘Union’ behaviors. That ought to really endear him to the union guys. This weekend I’ll ask my next door neighbor and a couple of other guys I know who work there how this is playing out on the floor. Or maybe I’ll just ask Mr Bills the next time I see him at the Hudson Oaks WalMart.

    (Note: I do not now work for LM AEROFW, nor have I ever have worked for them, and do not work at the plant at all at this time)

  6. ben 13 October, 2009 at 10:53 pm #

    I worked at lockheed for 23 years and can assure you that there is a lot of idle time.Sleeping on the job is a fact and idle chit chit for 20 minutes or longer is a daily occurance.People make personal phone calls all day long and its not just a quick call home.People surf the internet all day long.Not a thing has changed nor is it likely to .

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