Camden, Arkansas, The Defense Industries' Personal Mexico
Updated: Nov 13
It wouldn’t be surprising if you’ve never heard of Camden, AR, a town with a population just over 10,000, and about 100 miles south of Little Rock. Camden, Arkansas plays a major role in our Nation's ability to defend itself and our allies The town of Camden is a serious producer of our Military's missiles and defense systems.
Camden is home to an Aerojet Rocketdyne facility which employs around 1,100 workers, Lockheed Martin which employs around 1,100 workers or more, Raytheon which employs around 400 workers, Armtec which employs around 170 workers, Spectra, General Dynamics, and soon they will have another missile plant being built by RTX.
So why Camden, AR? Well as you may have guessed from the article’s headline, Camden is an isolated place with a poverty rate of 24.9%. It seems that the heavy hitting US defense industry can’t allow our military secrets to be sent to Mexico or China for cheap labor, so they found an isolated community and built a defense empire with low wages and strategically started taking advantage of proud hardworking Americans that wish to live in rural America, and far away from the issues and headaches caused by city life.
Would you believe us if we told you that many of these workers are assembling our militaries' rocket engines for $15 to $17 an hour? After L-3 Harris aquired Aerojet Rocketdyne, the company has cut their employees Health and Welfare Savings acount from $2,300 per family down to $1,000 and for single $1,000 down to $500 per year. Not only were these cuts made but premiums were raised on employees while the coverage they enjoyed went down significantly. The only Aerojet facilities that were not affected are the union shops. Meanwhile much of the country is watching McDonalds workers starting at the same pay rate making Big Mac meals. Aerojet Rocketdyne currently has employees who are forced to work 13 days straight and say the only reason its 13 days is “because there was a big blow up a while back and HR had to pretend to care, so they implemented that policy.”-said one Aerojet employee. Another stated “We ask for a weekend off so we can take care of our personal business and just get denied, if we refuse, we get hit by their point system, even if we have personal time we can use, HR doesn’t care.”
The consensus coming from the work force in Camden is that they are being treated like 3rd world employees. They feel more like property than a free world workforce. No say or reasonable accommodations for their family life, poor pay, long hours, and a take it or leave it attitude by the employers.
Machinists Union Organizer Shawn Vanderjack has stated that the IAM represents Lockheed Martin employees at 37 locations across the US, but they currently don’t have Camden, AR. “We represent Lockheed, Aerojet, Raytheon, Spectra, and General Dynamics all over the US, we are the largest defense union in the country, but we don’t have them in Camden, AR.” When asked why, he said “I feel like the defense industry has used this country’s political discourse as a tool to keep workers from pushing back. This is a rural area, and these folks don’t know us. We aren’t the folks on TV burning Amazon boxes or the union marching on Starbucks, we represent Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, Bathe Iron Works who make our Navy Destroyers, Harley Davidson, Browning, Winchester Ammo etc. Weve been around since 1888 but because of what folks see on the news and on TV, we seem to have the same label. That assumption has left a lot of money sitting on the table that these workers are not getting.”
"Every Machinists Union shop, where the employees have representation working for these employers, make significantly more in wages and benefits, and let’s not forget work/life balance. Until these workers can stand together and form a union, they will continue to leave money on the table and be taken advantage of by some of the wealthiest companies in the world."