Workers at Lockheed Martin's aircraft plant in Marietta, Ga. (once represented in Congress by union-hating, defense-contractor-loving Newt Gingrich), have gone on strike, braving the wind and rain to start picketing today. Although the International Association of Machinists negotiated a new contract with pay raises and signing bonuses, the Marietta local rejected it because it also raised health care premiums and trimmed retiree medical benefits.

The plant produces F/A-22 Raptor fighter jets and C-130J transports, both of which have been earmarked for spending cuts by the Pentagon. That, together with the fact that, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (registration req'd), the average age of the Marietta workers is over 50, has put the protesters' focus on retirement and medical benefits.

At first glance, a story like this might seem to put progressives in a bind, since we generally support both unions and defense budget cuts. True, the South is overly dependent on the defense industry, and the Pentagon budget has swollen beyond all rational need with unnecessary weapons programs. However, such cuts should not be taken out of workers' retirement plans, especially when Lockheed, the world's largest military contractor, is doing rather well overall.

Meanwhile, Newt himself weighed in a few months ago on the subject of health care, criticizing unions for fighting for "lower co-pays and limited premium increases" instead of backing a system of private health savings accounts. It seems that some folks in his former district aren't listening.