May 8, 2018

Workers walk out on strike against rocket company

DECATUR, Al.–Workers who build and launch rockets have gone on strike in Alabama, Florida and California.

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted May 6 to reject a three-year contract offer from United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado.

The strike, which began May 7, involves about 300 workers who assemble rockets in Decatur, Ala., and about 300 who launch them, including about 220 at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and 80 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Union members cited travel requirements and a lack of job security as major sticking points, news outlets reported.

A frequently voiced complaint among picketers in Alabama on May 7 was a contract provision that expands management’s authority to require employees to travel to different sites to support launches.

“That’s my biggest concern,” maintenance worker Randall Springer told the Decatur Daily. “Anybody at any time can be sent away for 30 days.”
United Launch Alliance is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The company said its offer was in the best interest of owners and employees and that operations would continue during the strike.

“We believe our proposed contract is very competitive with other companies,” Florida Today quoted ULA’s president and CEO, Tory Bruno as saying. The company’s offer “contributes to ULA’s long term viability in an increasingly competitive launch business environment,” Bruno said.

The company’s offer included a $6,000 bonus per employee if the contract was approved before May 7; wage increases of 1.5 percent, 1.75 percent and 2 percent over three years; continuation of existing medical plans; a guarantee that ULA wouldn’t displace additional employees with subcontractors; and an increase in the cost-of-living adjustment from $850 to $1,200 per year.

“It’s not mainly about wages,” said employee Don Bethel. “It’s about being treated with decency.”

On May 5, NASA sent its InSight spacecraft hurtling toward Mars atop an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance. The company also builds Delta IV and Delta IV Heavy rockets. The company’s next launch — a solar probe — is scheduled no earlier than July 31. AP

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